Article Date: 21 Apr 2009 – 0:00 PDT
In research published in PLoS Medicine, Hana Golding of the US Food and Drug Administration and colleagues have identified the regions (epitopes) of influenza virus that are recognized by antibodies in the blood of people who have recovered from H5N1 avian influenza infection.
H5N1 has caused about 400 confirmed cases of human influenza and more than 250 deaths in the past decade. It has not started a human pandemic because it does not pass easily between people. However, it could possibly acquire this ability at any time, so research efforts are currently aimed at developing vaccines that would provide protection against a pandemic H5N1 strain.
Using a discovery tool known as “genome-fragment phage display libraries” the researchers found several H5N1 epitopes that have not been identified before, and were not recognized by antibodies from people who had recovered from infection with other, seasonal, strains of influenza. This information can now be used to help design vaccines against H5N1 and antibody-based therapies for the treatment of H5N1 infections, and to develop new tools for monitoring outbreaks of avian influenza in human populations.
In an accompanying Perspective article, Hui-Ling Yen and J.S. Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong, who were not involved in the study, discuss the results and conclude that “These new insights provide a better understanding of antibody epitopes of influenza and are crucial to our efforts to be better prepared for the next pandemic.”
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Yen H-L, Peiris JSM (2009)
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