New Compound Counters Avian Flu
UW-Madison researchers have found a flu-fighting peptide, a small protein molecule which is a fragment of a larger human protein. The peptide is reported to block the influenza virus from attaching to and entering the cells of its host, which prevents it from replicating and infecting more cells.
Stacey Schultz-Cherry, co-author of the report published in the Journal of Virology, answers Scitizen?s questions.
You report  the discovery of a new antiviral compound which could protects against a broad array of influenza viruses. This compound blocks the influenza virus from attaching to and entering the cells of its host. Is it a new strategy?
Although very preliminary, our studies do suggest that this peptide may prevent attachment of virus to cells. This would provide a new antiviral strategy for influenza virus.
We used several methods to test the peptide. We tested the ability of the peptide to block the growth of the virus in cells and then demonstrated that the peptide stoped the virus from entering the cells.
We then tested whether the peptide could protect mice infected with influenza virus. We did this by treating the virus directly with the peptide or treating the mice with peptide after they were infected with influenza virus.
Would this antiviral compound be effective against the highly pathogenic H5N1 (avian) viruses?
Our studies did demonstrate that the peptide protected mice from the highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses; although much more work is needed.
What happens to a virus that cannot enter a cell?
Thatís a great question. The short answer is we donít know. In vivo, one would hope the immune system would clear the virus.
Youíre concerned by the time needed before clinical trials in human can start. How long can this take?
It could take 5 to 10 year before clinical trials in humans could start. Again, we are in the early stages of the research and have a great deal of work to do both in cells and in animal models before we would be comfortable moving into human trials.
 Jones, J.C. et al, Journal of Virology, published online ahead of print on 27 September 2006.
Interview by Thanh Tam Candice Vu.