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Synthetic Protein Appears to Boost Immune System
A recent study published in the PLoS One journal has shown that a synthetic protein known as EP67 may activate your immune system and provide valuable protection against the flu. The study was conducted on mice by first injecting the mice with flu virus and then providing a dose of the EP67 protein within a day.
Mice typically lose 20% of their total body weight when they have the flu, although mice that received the protein injection lost only 6% on average, with some mice losing no weight at all. Even mice infected with a lethal lose of the flu virus did not die after they received the EP67 protein.
This synthetic protein may offer a new, more effective treatment to protect against the flu, especially for children, pregnant women and the elderly, who face increased risk of death after a flu infection. Most importantly, the EP67 should protect against every strain of influenza B and A, unlike a flu vaccine that only protects against a single strain.
The lead author of this study, Joy Phillips, explains that the EP67 protein has not yet been tested against a full range of pathogens like the H5N1 avian influenza. Still, Phillips hypothesizes that the protein should be effective against this strain as well as bacterial, fungal and viral diseases because it stimulates the immune system.
There is still a great deal of research necessary before real-world application will be seen. In the future, it’s expected that this synthetic protein will be used as an emergency treatment for emergency workers, family and those who have close contact with patients. The major advantage of the protein is the ability to treat a wide range of pathogens without wasting time by first identifying the specific organism responsible for the disease. It may even be applied to veterinary medicine or the field of bioterrorism in the future. Because it works on mammals and other animals like chickens, the EP67 protein could be used to protect a food supply in a situation involving bioterrorism.
While application of this important research is many years away, it does offer many potential uses, including treating high-risk flu patients or serving as an emergency treatment in the case of bioterrorism. Phillips and her team next plan to research if the protein will work in other species besides mice and look into any challenges that come from introducing other flu strains.