The ‘protecting virus’ provides instant protection, and completely prevents flu symptoms developing by slowing influenza infection rates to such an extent that the harmful infection becomes a vaccine against that very form of influenza. It can also counter an actual infection and offer protection if given up to 24 hours after first infection (and possibly longer).
Existing vaccination methods depend on stimulating the body’s immune system, so that white blood cells produce antibodies that attach to the surface of the virus and start the process of killing it. This works well for many diseases, such as smallpox, polio and measles, but is much less effective with influenza, as the coat of the flu virus is continually changing. Vaccination against one strain of flu, for instance H3N2, is totally ineffective against another, such as H5N1. This is especially problematic when a new pandemic strain emerges, as all existing vaccines are likely to be totally ineffective.
Professor Dimmock has spent more than two decades investigating an entirely new method, that uses a ‘protecting virus’. This has now been shown to provide instant protection against all flu symptoms and to slow the development of an influenza infection to such an extent that harmful infections are transformed into a vaccine against that form of influenza.
‘Protecting virus’ has a significant alteration to one of the virus’s genes. The genetic material of a flu virus consists of 8 individual segments of single stranded RNA. Professor Dimmock’s protecting influenza virus has a huge but specific deletion of around 80% of the RNA of one of these 8 strands.
This deletion makes the virus harmless and prevents it from reproducing by itself within a cell, so that it cannot spread like a normal influenza virus. However, if it is joined in the cell by another influenza virus, it retains its harmless nature but starts to reproduce – and at a much faster rate than the new influenza virus. This fast reproduction rate – spurred by the new flu infection – means that the new invading influenza is effectively crowded out by the ‘protecting virus’. This vastly slows the progress of the new infection, prevents flu symptoms, and gives the body time to develop an immune response to the harmful new invader. In effect the protecting virus converts the virulent virus into a harmless live vaccine.
Research indicates that the ‘protecting virus’ would have the same beneficial effect whatever strain of influenza is infecting you. This is because the coat of the virus is irrelevant to the protection process – the effect works on the virus genes inside the cell. It thus promises to be a highly effective tool when combating the spread of any new strain of virus, as well existing strains. One could give it as a preventive measure without the need to tailor it to a particular flu strain or mutation. This has obvious benefits when dealing with the sudden outbreak of a major epidemic, as one would not need to know the exact make up of the new strain before deploying the protecting virus making it much more useful than vaccines, which are effective only against particular existing strains of virus. In addition it protects instantly, whereas protection generated by conventional flu vaccination takes 2-3 weeks to become fully effective. Experiments so far show that a single dose of protecting virus can be given 6 weeks before an infection with flu virus and be effective. This could also have a substantial advantage over anti-viral drugs that only give less than 24-hour protection. Another advantage is that influenza virus does not appear to become resistant to ‘protecting virus’, although drug-resistance is a serious problem with many microbes.
‘Protecting virus’ also protects when given up to 24 hours after infection (and possibly longer). It is thus able to counter an actual infection. It could therefore also be used as a treatment for family and other direct contacts of infected individuals.
‘Protecting virus’ is easy to administer as it targets the same cells as any other flu virus and uses the same method to enter the cell. Laboratory work to date has used a drop of saline containing the protecting virus, squirted up the nose. Aerosol administration, used already for some vaccines, would be another way and is more user-friendly than injections.
The protecting virus could also be a useful treatment for domestic animals. Ducks get a gut infection and chickens a combined gut and respiratory infection, so it may be possible to simply deliver the protecting virus to them in their drinking water. One dose should protect a chicken for weeks. Flu is a major problem in the horse racing industry and in domestic horses. It also has very recently become a problem in domestic dogs in the USA and domestic cats are susceptible to H5N1 virus.
The Warwick research team has now filed a patent on the protecting virus and they are exploring ways of taking ‘protecting virus’ through human clinical trials and testing on birds. The University has established a company – ViraBiotech – to help advance those aims. This may involve venture capital support, and collaborations with pharmaceutical companies, to enable this novel technology to be rigorously tested in a wide range of animals and humans, and using a wide range of influenza strains.
Peter Dunn | alfa
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy