3:50 pm - Friday February 18, 5183

Avoiding Fatal Responses to Flu Infection: New Study


Flu often causes a range of discomforts. At times, it can bring on a wave of severe Flu Infection is a highly contagious viral infectionimmune response that can become life threatening. Researchers have reported in the September 16th issue of the journal Cell, that they have traced origins of this severe immune response that is called, cytokine storm – to its source.

Cytokines are the chemical signals that drive inflammation. Cytokines storms are thought to be behind the many deaths attributed to the 1918 worldwide influenza pandemic. They are also attributed to the more recent outbreaks of swine & bird flu infection.

The new study provides news that is encouraging & offers the foundations a completely new kind of flu therapy.

Said Hugh Rosen, senior author of the study, from The Scripps Research Institute, “We are showing for the first time that you can actually separate the deleterious events from those needed to control the flu virus.”

The new results suggest that drugs used to subdue the immune response may offer a life-saving line of defense that is new. This, the drugs accomplish by protecting infected hosts from themselves.

The cytokines associated with flu infection were previously thought to be released from virus-infected cells found primarily in the lungs & nasal passages. But the authors have found that the cytokines are instead released from the endothelial cells that line blood vessels.

A protein found on the surface of endothelial cells that is essential for flu-associated cytokine storms is called Sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor (S1P1).

Cytokine production and early signs of inflammation were found to get suppressed in mice treated with a molecule (that targets S1P1). These results in an increase in chances of the animals to more likely survive an infection with H1N1 swine flu virus.

Rosen says, “Now that we know where cytokines come from and have isolated the specific receptor-based mechanism, it is likely that a single oral dose of a compound can be developed that will provide protection from cytokine storm early in infection.”

That will not make antiviral drugs a thing of the past. Rosen & Michael O suggest that the most promising therapies (including flu therapy) to come in the future will likely include a combination of drugs that work to protect against cytokine storms & tackle viruses directly.

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