FDA Researchers Contribute Insights into Avian Flu Virus

May 13, 2009

An in-depth analysis of blood from patients recovering from the H5N1 avian influenza virus has provided important insights into how to combat the potentially lethal virus.

An in-depth analysis of blood from patients recovering from the H5N1 avian influenza virus has provided important insights into how to combat the potentially lethal virus.

The findings by US Food and Drug Administration scientists and collaborators better explain what part of the bird flu virus is seen by the immune system after a person becomes infected. As one result of this research, a protein of the bird flu virus called PB1-F2 was identified as a potentially potent target for attack by immune systems to stop the spread of the virus.

The study, titled “Antigenic Fingerprinting of an H5N1 Avian Influenza Using Convalescent Sera and Monoclonal Antibodies reveals Potential Vaccine and Diagnostic Targets,” appears in the April 20, 2009, edition of the online journal PLoS Medicine.

The researchers adapted an existing technique using genetically modified viruses (phages) to create a library of fragments representing all of the proteins found in the H5N1 virus. The scientists mixed these fragments with antibodies from five Vietnamese patients recovering from the H5N1 infection and observed which fragments attracted the patient’s antibodies.

Several targets that are likely to trigger strong antibody responses to the H5N1 virus were identified, including PB1-F2, a protein that researchers believe contributes significantly to the virus’s ability to cause disease.