Despite efforts to contain it, bird flu remains a serious menace to public health. That’s why scientists at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are redoubling their efforts to help people fight off the virus if they become infected.
In the journal Cell Host & Microbe, Dr. James Crowe Jr. and colleagues report that human monoclonal antibodies, isolated from two survivors of H7N9 infections and produced in bulk in the laboratory, protected mice from an otherwise lethal viral challenge.
“The point of this paper is that antibodies humans make are sufficient to protect or treat H7N9 flu,” said Dr. Crowe, who directs the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center.
“The implications are twofold,” he said. “The antibodies described could be used to prevent or treat disease in humans. And the work suggests that optimized vaccines that induce this type of antibody would protect against disease.”
Carried by wild birds, the H7N9 virus can infect humans when it crosses over to domestic poultry. The first known outbreak occurred in China in 2013.
“This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far,” a World Health Organization official told reporters at the time.
The H7N9 study was conducted with colleagues from the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology and Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and the University of California, San Diego.
Vanderbilt colleagues included Drs. Iuliia Gilchuk and Sandhya Bangaru, Pavlo Gilchuk, Mr. Ryan Irving, Ms. Nurgun Kose, Mr. Robin Bombardi as well as Dr. Natalie Thornburg and Vanderbilt faculty members Dr. Buddy Creech and Dr. Kathryn Edwards.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on December 27