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Can a nasal spray made from llama proteins protect against flu?
Llamas could hide the solution to long-lasting flu protection. Researchers discover an unusual antibody in the immune system of llamas and camels that effectively protects against all known flu strains that can be dangerous for humans. From this antibody they developed a nasal spray that should offer universal protection against influenza.
A research group from the Belgian Janssen Infectious Diseases has succeeded in producing a nasal spray from lama proteins that is said to offer universal protection against all flu viruses. Initial tests on the animal model showed good results. The new super protein was able to successfully protect mice from any known influenza strain. The study results were recently published in the scientific journal "Science".
Why llamas can protect us from flu
As the researchers report, the antibodies in the llamas are unusually small. They lack a specific peptide chain that creates a bulky form with other antibodies. The slim form of the antibodies ensures that they penetrate deeper into the viruses and can kill them more effectively. On this basis, the scientific team succeeded in developing so-called nano-antibodies, which penetrate deep into the cracks in the viruses and thus attack locations that their larger colleagues never reach.
Not yet tested on humans
So far, the spray has not been tested on humans. The research group finds it difficult to say that they have created a universal vaccine because flu viruses are constantly changing. Nevertheless, the results are promising and attract international attention.
Current flu protection is inadequate
Influenza caused massive deaths and causes waves of illness every year. The current flu shot is the best measure we have against influenza, but vaccination in the elderly only offers 50 percent protection against the virus. Nevertheless, older people in particular should be vaccinated against flu. A universal anti-flu nasal spray would be a blessing for the elderly and debilitated.
To generate the nano-antibodies against flu, the researchers injected the llamas with a vaccine that contained three different influenza viruses and a viral surface protein from two other virus strains. The llama's immune system then produced the newly discovered antibodies. The team was ultimately able to create a protein that combines all four Lama antibodies. In laboratory tests, this four-in-one super protein was able to ward off 60 different influenza viruses from the type A and type B groups.
Mice with flu
In a first animal experiment, mice received the synthetic antibody. They were then infected with various strains of influenza. According to the researchers, the survival rate of the mice in the group receiving the new vaccine was significantly higher than in the control group without the antibodies.
There has never been a greater breadth of effectiveness
Professor Dr. Ian Wilson works at the Scripps Research Institute in California. The experienced scientist has already published over 50 articles on influenza antibodies. He told the Science Journal that he had never seen a broader and more effective anti-flu antibody.
Is the antibody identified as foreign by humans?
Immunologist James Crowe is a specialist in influenza antibodies and vaccine developers at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He warns that the human immune system interprets the llama antibodies as intruders and that even antibodies against them could develop. The new super protein must first be tested extensively before the Lama antibodies are released on humans. (vb)