They hope to use the molecule to develop a novel type of antiviral drug that would protect against all strains of influenza, including the H5N1 bird flu virus.
The 20-amino acid peptide, derived from the signal sequence of fibroblast growth factor-4, works by blocking the influenza virus’ ability to attach to a key cell surface molecule. This stops the virus from entering the cell and prevents it replicating.
Researchers tested the effects on cultured canine kidney cells exposed to six different strains of H5N1 and H1N1 influenza. Treated cells did not die.
They then tested the peptide on mice exposed to a lethal strain of H5N1. All the mice treated with the peptide survived.
The researchers concluded that a drug based on this molecule could be more effective than existing antivirals for preventing a flu pandemic.