Researchers from the University of Maryland, U.S. have discovered a protein that can improve the symptoms and risk of death associated with the flu and possibly other types of infectious diseases as well.
The peculiarity of this protein, called retrocyclin-101 (RC-101), is that it not only targets the flu virus itself but also the harmful inflammation the virus triggers in the host.
"Every year, thousands of people across the country die from the flu or its complications - despite widespread use of annual influenza vaccines", Daniel J Prantner, a research associate at the University of Maryland said.
"We think that this protein could lead to medicines that could be a powerful tool in the battle against this disease, and against inflammation in general", Prantner added.
The team of researchers studied the effects of RC-101 on human cells, and in an animal model of flu, using mice.
As per the study, it was found that RC-101 had two positive effects on human immune cells and Prantner has termed this dual action as unique.
First, it blocked the flu virus from infecting the cells; second, it blocked the runway inflammation that is behind most symptoms of influenza infection, such as fever, pain, lethargy, and trouble breathing.
As far as the animal model was concerned, less severe symptoms of the flu and also decreased death rates were seen in the mice treated with RC-101.
Among the control group, 90 percent of the mice died; among the group that was given RC-101, only 20 percent died.
The study was published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.