US scientists have enlisted a curious ally in their efforts to develop a treatment for the flu: the blaze.
The blood of this animal was used to produce a new antibody therapy that has the potential to combat all types of flu, including pandemics.
Influenza is one of the most skilful diseases when it comes to changing shape, and constantly changes its appearance to escape our immune system, which explains why vaccines are not always effective and every winter requires a new injection to prevent -over there. .
That is why science is seeking a way to end all types of flu, regardless of which strain comes or how much it mutates.
And that's where the flame comes in, best known for its wool.
These animals, typical of the Andes, produce incredibly small antibodies compared to ours.
Antibodies are the weapons of the immune system and bind to proteins that protrude from the surface of the virus.
Human antibodies tend to attack the tips of these proteins, but that's the part that the flu changes faster.
While the flame antibodies use their advantageous size to delve into and attack the parts that the flu can not change.
A team at Scripps Institute in California has infected flames with various types of flu to get an immune response.
They then exploited the blood of these auquénids in search of the most powerful antibodies that could attack a wide variety of influenza strains.
The scientists finally chose four and then began to develop their own synthetic antibody that used elements from each of them.
The result was tested in rats given lethal doses of influenza.
"It's very effective, there are 60 different types of viruses that were used in the challenge and only one was not neutralized and that is a virus that does not affect humans," said Professor Ian Wilson, one of the researchers. of the BBC Science in Action.
"The goal here is to provide something that works from season to season and also protects you from possible pandemics if they appear," he said.
The work was published in the science journal Science and is still in its infancy, and the team wants to conduct more testing before beginning testing with humans.
The Holy Grail
The researchers used two different techniques when administering antibodies to animals.
The first consisted of injecting them and the second consisted of gene therapy.
Genetic instructions for the development of the antibody were packaged in an innocuous virus, which was then used to infect the noses of mice.
And the cells in the nose lining began to produce the anti-flu antibody.
An additional advantage of this is that it could work on older people.
The older the immune system works, the less the seasonal flu vaccine becomes less effective.
But this flame-based treatment does not need to train our immune system.
Professor Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham told the BBC: "Having a treatment that can work with a variety of different strains of the virus is a very desirable thing – it's the Holy Grail of the flu."
"There will be an appetite (for the treatment), but it will depend on how well it will work, how expensive it will be," he said.