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News

Hope for flu fight as researchers crack communication

Society For General Microbiology : 29 March, 2004  (New Product)
Finding the way influenza viruses multiply may lead to new medicines which can fight all varieties of flu, according to German medical researchers speaking at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Bath.
'Thousands of people die every year from influenza, but because of the huge variability of different strains of flu, and the way the virus quickly builds up resistance, we still have almost no effective treatments', says Professor Stephan Ludwig from the Institute of Molecular Medicine at the Henrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Now researchers have used molecular techniques to unravel the structure of switches inside cells that allow viruses to make thousands of copies of themselves in their bid to infect as many people as possible. The scientists also hope that some of the cell functions they have identified, which are vital for the viruses to reproduce themselves, may be suitable targets for new anti-viral medical treatments.

'We have successfully defined a communication pathway within the host cell which is essential for virus replication. The flu virus seems to be misusing some of the cell's own anti-viral defence communication systems', says Prof Ludwig. 'We are already testing out the first of a series of new medical compounds which looks promising as a way of preventing this communication inside the cell. Surprisingly, these compounds are not toxic for the normal cell or organism, but efficiently block virus growth after infection. If this new class of antivirals is as effective as we hope, we may have found a type of treatment which will work against all influenza viruses'.

'This would be useful in preventing the appearance and rapid spread of resistant strains of virus', says Prof Stephan Ludwig. 'And these new medicines could be vital in fighting the severe pandemic outbreaks which we periodically see across the world killing thousands, and in some of the worst outbreaks in the past, millions of people'.
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