A team of university researchers say they are on the cusp of clinical trials for a “breakthrough” drug to help the immune system fight viruses and negate the need for some vaccinations.
They said the treatment could help save the lives of 3,000 Australians aged over 50 who died each year because of the flu, with an estimated 13,500 hospitalised by the virus.
Researchers from the University of South Australia, RMIT and the University of Dublin discovered that an ancient cell biological process found in plants, fungi and mammals “enhanced viral disease in mice” and was highly likely to have the same effect in humans.
They have been examining a protein that causes inflammation in the body and reduces the immune system’s ability to clear infection.
UniSA Professor Doug Brooks said viruses had evolved over the past 500 million years and used this protein to their advantage to stay in the human body for longer.
He said the team’s “evolutionary” treatment suppressed inflammation so the immune system could clear any virus.
“If you infect a mouse with a virus and treat with our prototype, effectively you get a 90 per cent reduction in the pathology in the lung,” Professor Brooks said.
“You don’t get all the cell death, all the inflammation and all of the mucus.”
He said when the drug was applied the virus could be cleared within a few days with no side effects.
Professor Brooks said the new technology would make it unnecessary to create new flu vaccines each year because the body could generate its own antibodies and it was the same protein being targeted irrespective of a virus strain.
He said the team had a prototype and were looking for…