Over time, the influenza virus has evolved, and natural selection has favored a mechanism that helps flu spread as quickly as possible in a human host by avoiding detection from immune cells that are programmed to recognize foreign particles. How does the flu virus evade the immune system? Empowering immune cells to win this game of hide and seek could lead to advanced treatments for and preventions from flu.
Flu viruses have a secret weapon: a protein that prevents immune cells from recognizing and attacking flu viral proteins as it infects host cells. This way, the viral particles can enter and leave cells to promote a widespread infection with no immune cells to stand in their way.
SImilar to the way bacteria evolve over time to become resistant to antibiotics, scientists believe that the flu evolves in the same way.
"The protein's immunosuppressant effect can possibly be used to develop better treatments for these types of diseases, where the immune system is chronically overactive,” said Associate Professor Christian Holm from the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University. “By suppressing the immune system's reaction, the symptoms can be reduced.”
Holm co-led the study with colleague Søren R. Paludan, PhD, published in the journal Nature Communications
Inhibiting the protein, the flu’s secret weapon, could be a new way to fight the flu, either in the form of a vaccine or an antiviral. On the other hand, extracting, isolating, and injecting the protein into autoimmune disorder patients could reduce the severity of harmful immune responses.
Source: Aarhus University