Scientists have developed artificial peptide molecules that can neutralise a broad range of influenza virus strains.
The peptides, which are short chains of amino acids, are like proteins but with smaller, simpler structures. The designed molecules have the potential to be developed into medicines that target influenza.
The researchers from the Scripps Research Institute and Janssen Research and Development say the development of broad-spectrum inhibitors, including some avian influenza strains, is extremely promising in the ongoing battle to prevent a global epidemic.
The developed peptides block the infectivity of most circulating strains of group 1 influenza A viruses, including the bird flu strain H5N1, which has caused thousands of infections and some human deaths in Asia.
The researchers designed the peptides to mimic two recently discovered “super-antibodies” that can neutralise influenza A strains. While antibodies are expensive to produce and must be delivered by injection or infusion, the peptides developed have the potential to be delivered via pill-based drugs in the future.
The peptides showed high-binding affinity for a broad set of group one influenza A viruses, as well as a potent ability to neutralise infections with these viruses in laboratory experiments.
Ian Wilson, co-senior investigator at the Scripps Research Institute, said: “Making small molecules that do essentially what these larger, broadly neutralising antibodies do is a really exciting and promising strategy against influenza, as our new results show.”
The study was published as an online First Release paper in Science this week.