New anti-flu drugs could become a reality as a result of a study carried out by academics at the University of Hertfordshire.
Dr Andreas Kukol at the University of Hertfordshire's School of Life Sciences led a team which studied the evolution of proteins from more than 2,000 viruses, which included swine, avian and human flu.
Antivirals such as Tamiflu act on surface proteins, which are highly variable among different viruses. But the researchers found that, if they went deeper than the surface proteins, they could identify proteins which remain constant in evolution and therefore can be targeted more effectively with antivirals.
According to Dr Kukol, whose research has been published in the Journal of General Virology 2009, the reason that people need annual vaccinations against flu is because the surface proteins constantly change.
"We have shown that if proteins inside the virus can be disabled, then the virus can be stopped and will not spread any further," he said.
Dr Kukol's research provides a basis for the development of new drugs to fight flu. He is currently developing it further and started to investigate small molecules as potential drug leads.
"We are currently checking lots of different molecules to see how they bind with the proteins," he said. "This is crucial right now with the outbreak of swine flu. Before swine flu, it was bird flu that was of concern and now there is grave concern that the two flu viruses could mix with serious consequences."
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