Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Weapon in War Against Flu Pandemics and Pneumonia

News Brief by Fred Lu

Despite its yearly occurrence and the plentiful availability of vaccines against it, influenza remains a major global health concern and is estimated to cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Likewise, pneumonia remains the leading cause of death for children under five and is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States.  In combating these ailments, the body's inflammatory response can help clear the lungs of infection. However, with influenza and pneumonia, the affected area can remain inflamed long after the infection is gone, leading to a buildup of fluid and internal bleeding. This results in a longer recovery time and, in the case of severe Avian flu and SARS, causes more deaths than the actual infection. Now, a group of scientists led by Associate Professor Andrew Tan of the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore have identified an antibody that blocks a protein, ANGPTL4, which is found in high concentrations in patients with severe respiratory infections. ANGPTL4 was found to be responsible for increasing the permeability of blood vessels and usually helps combat infections by allowing white blood cells to enter an infected area to deal with pathogens. However, in the absence of infection, the protein can cause dangerous inflammation. The antibody has been shown to reduce the length of respiratory infections in mice and will be produced by two biotechnology companies, the UK based Abcam and the US based Adipogen Internationals, for sale in vaccine form. The new revelations about ANGPTL allow it to be used as a biomarker for respiratory infections.

Nanyang Technological University. "New weapon in war against flu pandemics and pneumonia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2015. .

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