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Avian influenza survivors' antibodies effective at neutralising H5N1 strain

Wellcome Trust researcher at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Vietnam. "We are optimistic that these antibodies, if delivered at the right time and at the right amount, could also provide a clinical benefit to humans with H5N1 infections."

"In particular, we found that it was possible to administer the treatment up to 72 hours after infection. This is particularly important as people who have become infected with the virus do not tend to report to their local healthcare facilities until several days after the onset of illness."

The antibodies were discovered in the laboratory of Professor Antonio Lanzavecchia at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland. The researchers used a new technique that allows them to rapidly reproduce human monoclonal antibodies starting from a small sample of blood.

"We can't say for certain that a pandemic influenza virus will resemble the H5N1 strain that we have been studying or that the monoclonal antibodies generated using our technique will be able to tackle such a virus," says Professor Lanzavecchia. "Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the broad neutralizing activity of these antibodies in the lab and the moderate doses required."

Using administered antibodies has a historical precedent. During the 1918 Spanish H1N1 influenza pandemic, there were multiple reports of physicians administering blood taken from survivors to patients infected with the disease. A recent review suggested that this treatment was associated with a halving in mortality. However, directly administering blood carries a risk of infection with other blood diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV.
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Source:Wellcome Trust


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