Scientists have discovered a new protein, contained within the human body that offers protection against viral infections such as influenza.
Research has been carried out at the University of Melbourne and The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) into the question: ‘why do some people fight infections better than others?’ The answer appears to come down to a simple protein.
Influenza is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses. The most common symptoms are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, headache (often severe), coughing, weakness/fatigue and general discomfort. Flu affects the young and the elderly most severely.
The scientists’ research has centered on 'defensive devices' contained within the T-cells that are located on exposed body surfaces such as skin and mucosal surfaces to ward off infection. T cells area group of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, and they play a central role in immunity. T-cells detect cells infected with viruses, like flu, and kill them before the virus can reproduce within the infected cell and spread to other cells.
In studying T cells, the scientists found that the cells contain the protein called IFITM3 and this protein appears to make the cells more resistant to viral infections such as influenza.
There appears to a variation between different people in the way that the proteins work. The finding could lead to a new class of vaccines being developed.This offers another alternative to the research into insect based flu vaccines which the Digital Journal reported on recently.
The research was led by Dr Linda Wakim and the research has been published in Nature Immunology.