Researchers in Scotland have developed proteins that could change the way flu viruses are treated. According to a report in the New York Times on Tuesday, a new nasal spray using the proteins is showing great promise in fighting the flu.
Scientists from the U.S. and Scotland worked together on a study in which mice that were treated with the nasal spray were completely protected from deadly doses of the pandemic flu. Researchers are hoping this protection will be duplicated against other strains of the flu.
The new nasal spray is based on the premise that we could block flu viruses from being able to attach to humans in the first place. In this study prevention was key rather than treatment.
Currently, doctors rely on Tamiflu and other anti-viral medications, but those must be administered soon after infection to have much effect. Since many people don’t realize right away that their symptoms are actually a flu virus, dependence on Tamiflu can pose a problem, especially if there were to be a large outbreak.
According to flu expert, Dr. Arnold S. Monto, of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, “the government is desperate for new antivirals.” While developing vaccines takes quite a bit of time and testing, the new nasal spray is an exciting potential alternative.
The Scotsman reports that the nasal spray works by coating sugar molecules in the respiratory tract of humans, thereby creating a shield, or barrier, against airborne pathogens such as the flu virus.
The study in which mice were tested with the nasal spray showed that not only were the mice protected from the pandemic flu to which they were exposed, they were protected by a single dose of the nasal spray given a full seven days before their exposure to the virus. Furthermore, the mice developed antibodies that seemed to protect them from future onslaught of the virus.
While Tamiflu and other antivirals given have shortened the length of the flu virus, they don’t offer the promise of a nasal spray which may be able to prevent the virus from taking root at all. In an age where a pandemic is a valid concern, this new development may be the break scientists have been waiting for.