London: In a breakthrough, Australian scientists have developed a drug that prepares the immune system to effectively fight all cold and flu infections, including swine flu virus.
The drug, that could be taken once a day before breakfast, would prevent everyday sniffles in otherwise healthy people and life-threatening infections in the elderly.
The Veldona lozenge, which tastes like a sweet and dissolves in the mouth, prepares the immune system to attack every cold and flu virus.
Chairman of the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Western Australia in Perth, Manfred Beilharz, who tested the drug, said, "This is the golden fleece everyone has been looking for."
The lozenge contains tiny amounts of interferon alpha - a protective protein that the body naturally makes when attacked by a virus. When the lozenge dissolves in the mouth, the protein is released tricking the immune system into thinking there is a virus in the body and gets ready for a fight, Daily Mail reported.
"The outposts of the immune system say, `Hey, we`ve got a virus, let`s gear up and get ready for it before the infection spreads too far`," said Beilharz, who has devoted 15 years to the research.
The drug has already been successfully tested on mice and a government-funded human trial was recently conducted in Western Australia and its results are expected within weeks.
As part of the trial, half of the 200 adults taking part took the lozenge once a day before breakfast and the remaining took a dummy sweet and all noted any cold and flu symptoms each week, including time off work.
If the results are positive, the drug could be made available over-the-counter in the next two years. It would cost just 20 pence a pill.
"This medicine is quite cheap to manufacture and very low dosage and doesn`t seem to have any side-effects of any significance," he said.
Beilharz, however, does not expect the drug to completely ward off flu and cold. He believes that the symptoms would be greatly eased.
"When the infection comes along, it still infects but the immune system quashes it in a couple of days. So you will have some symptoms but they will be rather mild and you will go on as normal," he said.
The drug could be taken year-round, but people are most likely to rely on them during the winter.