Pig Studies Show Human Antibody Could Provide Protection from Flu

A human antibody can provide pigs protection against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain of human influenza, according to new research at The Pirbright Institute in collaboration with Inovio Pharmaceuticals.

“This finding indicates that the antibody could also be effective at treating human influenza infections and demonstrates that the pig is an excellent model for assessing antibody therapies,” a Pirbright release said.

The use of antibodies to provide protection and reduce symptoms of influenza continues to be a popular area of study. Although several influenza antibodies have progressed to clinical trials based on their success in small animals such as ferrets and mice, the outcome has been disappointing as no antibodies have shown therapeutic effect in humans, Pirbright reports.

However, research published in the Journal of Immunology establishes that the 2-12C human antibody can neutralise the H1N1 2009 flu pandemic virus in pigs. The amount of virus and signs of infection in the lungs were both reduced in pigs that received treatment, the release said.

New antibody delivery method proves successful
In addition, the team also assessed a new antibody delivery method that administers the antibody genes to pigs. Once inside pig cells, the genes generate antibodies continuously, providing longer-term protection than a single direct inoculation of antibodies. This gene delivery method for 2-12C provided pigs with protection from signs of disease typically caused by H1N1, the researchers said in the release.

This antibody and delivery platform’s success in the pig model means that these treatments could potentially work in humans, Pirbright said. 

Pigs have proven to be good models for influenza vaccine studies because they are naturally infected by the same subtypes of influenza viruses as humans, have similar immune systems and are more comparable in size and physiology than smaller animals. 

“We are very excited that the pig model is useful for testing and refining antibody treatments for life-threatening influenza infections,” said Elma Tchilian, Head of the Mucosal Immunology Group at Pirbright. “I hope that research into many other infectious diseases will also benefit from this model.”

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