In a recent study published in Cell Reports Medicine, a team of researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada discuss how a combination of antiviral drugs with antibody therapies could help treat seasonal flu while preventing an ensuing flu pandemic. For decades, doctors have been prescribing the antiviral drug, Tamiflu, also known as Oseltamivir, for treating flu symptoms in people who are at risk for serious complications.
This most recent study, which was conducted on mice, discovered that when Tamiflu was used in combination with antibody therapies, the result was more effective than either approach by themselves, with the antibodies being greatly more effective at killing infected cells while the drugs were found to be more potent, as well. The researcher said these findings could enlighten new approaches in protecting high-risk groups, which include children and the elderly during an emerging flu pandemic.
"Antibody therapies were used to treat COVID-19, and in theory they could be used to treat flu as a new therapeutic approach," says Dr. Matthew Miller, who is Director of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, and a co-author on the study. "We really need to have better strategies to protect people from flu pandemics because right now we don't have anything. Our seasonal vaccines don't protect us. And we've learned that we can't make them quickly enough to vaccinate everybody if a new pandemic were to emerge."
The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 brought to the forefront the need for effective therapies for elderly patients. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, individuals older than 65 accounted for an alarming 80% of pandemic-related deaths across Canada.
"The mechanism behind how the drug and the antibody therapies work together is very unique and surprising," explains Ali Zhang, who is a doctoral student in McMaster's Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, and lead author on the study. "This approach allows us to both disable a crucial component of the virus, and also boost our own immune system to better track down and prevent the spread of the infection."
As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!