There’s a new weapon in the fight against the flu: Researchers have discovered that a synthetic protein called EP67, commonly used as a helper molecule in vaccines, is highly effective on its own when taken within 24 hours of infection.
Vaccines are currently the best weapon we have against the flu. But vaccines target individual strains of the virus, meaning that if public health experts guess incorrectly when they develop that season’s flu shot, it will do little good for the population.
The new approach fights off infection by awakening and amplifying the immune system itself, so it is not subject to the same limitations.
The researchers, at San Diego State University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, infected mice with the flu and then had the animals inhale a dose of EP67 within 24 hours. While mice that did not receive the protein lost 20% of their body weight — considered a sure sign of being sick — the mice given EP67 lost only about 6% of their body weight, and some lost none. When the researchers infected the mice with what should have been a lethal dose of the flu, all of the EP67 mice survived and all of the untreated mice succumbed.