Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


‘Protecting virus’ offers instant flu protection & converts flu infections into their own vaccines

Research led by Professor Nigel Dimmock at the University of Warwick is developing an entirely new method of protecting against flu. This has been shown to protect animals against various strains of flu, and could offer protection against the full range of influenza A infections, including H5N1 and any new pandemic or epidemic strains infecting humans.

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
Further information:

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Forest Management Yields Higher Productivity through Biodiversity
14.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Farming with forests
23.09.2016 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES)

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>