Could Fatty Acids be the Answer to the Flu?
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The flu virus is a major cause of sickness and sometimes death around the world. Antiviral drugs do not protect the seriously ill patients. Now, a recent study offers a promising strategy for the treatment of patients with severe influenza virus infections.
The study found that a compound derived from fats found in fish oils prevents death in influenza-virus-infected mice, even at advanced stages of disease.
"Given the potential for future lethal pandemics, effective drugs are needed for the treatment of severe influenza, such as that caused by H5N1 viruses. We have identified a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of severe influenza that is effective under conditions where known antiviral drugs fail to protect from death,” senior study author Yumiko Imai of Akita University, was quoted as saying.
Antiviral drugs inhibit influenza virus replication, but they are usually not effective when given to the patients as little as two days after the infection. Scientists have recently identified several molecules and genes that are crucial for influenza virus replication. However, until now it was unknown whether naturally occurring lipids, like those derived from omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in fish oils, might also be involved in influenza virus infections.
In an attempt to solve this problem, researchers screened for PUFA-derived lipids in influenza-virus-infected human lung cells. When the infected cells with these lipids were treated, they found that protectin D1 (PD1) was the most effective at inhibiting the replication of viruses, including H5N1.
Also, low levels of PD1 in the lungs of the influenza-virus-infected mice were associated with severe infection and highly pathogenic viruses, like H5N1. The treatment with PD1 in combination with an antiviral drug improved the survival of the mice and prevented death, even when given 2 days after infection.
“Our findings suggest that PD1could serve as a biomarker as well as a much needed antiviral drug for severe and lethal influenza virus infections," Imai concluded.
SOURCE: Cell, March 2013