Saturday, May 30, 2009


Scientists are exploring the possibility that drugs that affect the immune system might one day serve as potent weapons to fight the flu, even the swine flu that's currently circulating around the globe.

The concept has worked with a group of lab mice that were treated with the rheumatoid arthritis drug abatacept (Orencia) after being given a lethal dose of influenza A virus, researchers report.

The mice were also loaded up with "memory" T-cells -- white blood cells that were programmed to react to this strain of flu.

Eighty percent of the treated mice lived, compared to only 50 percent of those left untreated, said Donna Farber, senior author of a paper published in the June 1 issue of The Journal of Immunology.

Basically, the drug enabled infection-fighting "memory" T cells to fight off the initial infection, but prevented them from overactivating the immune system, a process that can cause worse illness and even death.

The findings could have implications not only for the seasonal flu, which reappears with regularity each year, but for surprise outbreaks such as the swine flu.



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