Australian biotech leads new hope for influenza control

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Australian researchers could pave the way for a new approach to influenza control with positive results presented from preclinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness of anti-influenza drug compounds to prevent and treat influenza infections. 

The data, released by Aus Bio, were presented at the Global Network Virus Meeting being held at the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne.

Australia is currently experiencing a particularly bad influenza season, with 72 deaths recorded to date, and thousands of influenza-related hospitalisations.

According to internationally recognised influenza expert, Professor Lorena Brown, from the University of Melbourne, “This preclinical research is very promising. Our results have indicated that these anti-influenza compounds are extremely potent and have long lasting effectiveness against a wide range of flu viruses including influenza A and B, and the subtype H3N2, the predominant circulating influenza A virus in Australia this year.” 

Antivirals complement vaccination programs by treating influenza and helping to stop the spread of new influenza strains that have changed since the vaccine was prepared.

Aus Bio said its new anti-influenza drug compounds work in a new way by disabling the influenza virus before it enters the respiratory cell.

"A single shot 12 days before infection completely prevents the disease in preclinical models. In addition, while currently used antivirals need to be given twice daily for several days starting within 48 hours of an influenza infection, University of Melbourne scientists have shown in well validated preclinical models that the Aus Bio drug candidates will effectively treat influenza infections when given once only even 72 hours after infection has occurred," said the company. 

“As the influenza virus gets smarter and more resistant to our drugs, we need to get smarter with our research to tackle this public health challenge. These preclinical studies are a great example of the ingenuity of the Aus Bio scientists who have developed a novel way to control the infection. I will be delighted to see this translate into better health outcomes for people, particularly the young and old who face the greatest risk of serious complications from influenza,” added Professor Brown.

Pre-clinical results also showed the drug compounds were highly effective against the avian influenza viruses H5N1 ('Bird Flu') and H7N9, both which have pandemic potential.