Western governments stockpile flu vaccines in case of a global pandemic. However, if a new strain of bird flu emerged that could jump easily between humans, scientists worry that many people would die in the months it takes to deliver a new vaccine. As of now, our best antiviral drugs are only partly effective and must be administered immediately after infection. But researchers have come up with a potential solution: a nasal spray containing lab-engineered proteins (shown in green) that gum up receptors on cells in the nasal passage (blue) to which flu viruses attach. When mice were given the spray a week before they got a lethal dose of the H1N1 flu virus from the 2009 pandemic, they were completely protected from infection. The team thinks their spray could be used as a preventative measure against a nasty new flu strain while an effective vaccine is developed.
Written by Daniel Cossins