Alternative flu protection developed



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Instead of conventional flu vaccination: Researchers developed alternative flu protection

Instead of conventional flu vaccination, a natural messenger substance could activate the immune system so strongly in the future that all flu viruses can be effectively switched off. American researchers from the University of Texas first introduced the alternative method in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Initial studies have already been successful. The use of a specially designed messenger was able to activate a large number of immune cells in the lungs in an animal experiment and thus mobilize phagocytes against the flu virus.

Natural messenger activates immune defense According to US researchers, a naturally acting messenger can activate cells in the lungs that switch off all previously known influenza viruses. The new method should not only count as an alternative, but can even work much more effectively than a conventional flu shot. In an experiment with mice, the natural growth factor "GM-CSF" (granulocyte-macrophage-colony-stimulating factor) was able to prevent the spread of viruses and stop a serious infection because so-called phagocytes proliferated. Such a therapy could be effective very quickly and could most likely act against all types of influenza viruses, as the researchers write in the science magazine "American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine". In contrast to the simple flu vaccination, the treatment could already be used for the sick and stop the course of the disease or at least make it milder.

Conventional vaccines do not provide adequate protection Every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 500,000 people die from the seasonal flu. "Improved methods of protecting against the flu are urgently needed, especially against the background of an impending pandemic. The development of such methods depends crucially on an understanding of certain endogenous mechanisms. These mechanisms offer robust protection against influenza," explains Dr . Homayoun Shams, head of the research team at the University of Texas at Tyler. Genetic mutations of the influenza virus are also increasingly reducing the effectiveness of flu vaccines and the existing vaccines have often provoked health complications. It is therefore very important to develop a new form of flu protection, like Dr. Shams explains. So far, people have had to be vaccinated every year to protect themselves from a viral infection. The vaccination must also be given at least two weeks before the infection and only work for the active ingredient of the selected virus strain.

Conventional vaccination does not work on people who are already infected
A completed vaccination activates the adaptive immune system, which fights special pathogens with antibodies and immune cells. If the immune system is already compromised, vaccination cannot activate the protection. In contrast to vaccines, the body's immune system is able to activate targeted defense mechanisms regardless of the type of pathogen. The natural immune defense is much faster and more effective. The scientists' approach is to specifically support the immune system in its defense. So-called phagocytes (alveolar macrophages) are mobilized through the use of the body's own messenger substance GM-CSF. These immunizing cells collect in the lungs and eliminate viruses that enter the organism.

In the experiment, the researchers used genetically manipulated mice, in which the named messenger substance was increasingly produced. As a result, the phagocytes in the lungs of animals were increased five to ten times. In the further course of the study, the mice were infected with a high number of flu viruses. The researchers used a total of three different types of flu virus, including the swine flu virus H1 / N1 type A.

Messenger activates phagocytes when infected
Due to the artificially induced infection, the immune defense produced an even larger number of immune phagocytes. All mice survived the high doses of virus, although under normal circumstances certain death should have occurred. This was also shown by the control group of the mice that were not genetically modified. All "normal mice" in the control group died from the virus infection. A high GM-CSF level in the lungs is therefore sufficient to activate adequate protection against infection, explained Dr. Shams.

When the messenger GM-CSF was administered to normal, non-genetically modified animals, phagocytes were also activated to a greater extent. Thereafter, the high doses of the virus strains could be successfully controlled, so that these animals survived and could be saved. The scientists want to investigate in more detail whether the therapy is also suitable as a treatment method for animals that are already ill. In the first round, the death rate was reduced from 100 to 70 percent. So-called time windows are to be investigated in more detail in further runs. This should be about how much time remains for an infection to work completely afterwards. It will also play an important role whether the natural active ingredient should be administered as an injection or through the nose.

Clinical phase can begin soon
The medical use of GM-CSF is no news. Appropriate medicines are used, for example, to decrease the number of white blood cells. So far, such preparations have proven to be well tolerated. For this reason, clinical trials in the area of ​​flu protection could begin promptly. Nevertheless, according to the research group, it will still take a few years before the alternative method can be used to protect against flu. (sb)

Also read:
Immune to flu after swine flu infection?
New general vaccine against flu
The flu business
Self-treatment flu & colds
Naturopathy inhibits swine flu viruses
Swine flu is no reason to panic

Picture shows GM-CSF messenger.

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