New therapy gives important flu treatment option

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

The discovery of a new class of host-targeted therapy could give the medical profession a much-needed new flu treatment option for serious infections.

Dr Lauren Ely, Dr Chris Harpur, A/Prof Michelle Tate, Dr Alison West, Dr Andrew Gearing discovery of new flu treatment option
L–R: Dr Lauren Ely, Dr Chris Harpur, A/Prof Michelle Tate, Dr Alison West, Dr Andrew Gearing

A pre-clinical study at Hudson Institute of Medical Research has identified a new class of compounds, derived from a protein that naturally exists in our body which, when inhaled, limit the ability of influenza virus to replicate in the lung, and protect against damaging inflammation.

Associate Professor Michelle Tate led a team from Hudson Institute and Melbourne-based Lateral Pharma Pty Ltd, whose findings have been published in the journal Clinical & Translational Immunology.

“The human body uses inflammation in many positive ways, to keep us healthy,” A/Prof Tate said. “But when inflammation goes into overdrive it can get out of control and cause enormous damage, particularly to delicate organs such as the lungs.”

No current treatments for severe flu

There are currently no effective treatments available for severe influenza virus infection. Each year in Australia, influenza infection results in hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospitalisations.

“Unlike current antiviral influenza drugs, which target the virus itself, these compounds act directly on the cells in the lung.” she said.

As the therapeutic acts directly on the host cells, it is less likely that influenza virus variants will develop resistance to this treatment. An extra bonus is that this new therapy is naturally derived from a protein our body makes.

Treatment fine-tunes inflammatory response

“The search is always on for treatment options that can fine-tune the inflammatory response, to strike a balance between inflammation which can be protective or damaging.” A/Prof Tate said.

COVID-19 has shown us the damage that can be done by out-of-control inflammation, and A/Prof Tate says it’s a similar story for flu.

“We urgently need new drugs for influenza and emerging respiratory viruses. These results support the potential for Lateral’s novel compounds to help patients with severe respiratory disease,” Lateral Pharma said.

Collaborators | Lateral Pharma Pty Ltd

Journal information | Harpur C et al, (2023) Naturally derived cytokine peptides limit virus replication and severe disease during influenza A virus infection, Clinical and Translational Immunology. DOI: 10.1002/cti2.1443

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