Los Angeles: Researchers have come up with an experimental drug capable of preventing lung injury and death from influenza virus, says a study.
The drug Eritoran has shown promise in treating influenza, preventing lung injury and death from the virus in preclinical studies, reported Science Daily, citing an University of Maryland School of Medicine research study published in journal Nature.
The scientists found that Eritoran can protect mice from death after they have been infected with a lethal dose of influenza virus.
The potential value of this drug as single therapy or in combination with antivirals is further supported by previous research that found that it is safe for use in humans.
The findings are of particular interest to scientists now that the latest deadly strain of flu, H7N9, is spreading in China -- 82 people in China had been infected with the new strain of flu virus as of April 26, and 17 have died.
"Currently, vaccines and antiviral medications are the two main approaches to preventing influenza," says senior study author Stefanie Vogel, a professor of microbiology and immunology and medicine at the University of Maryland.
"Problems associated vaccine development may limit efficacy and/or vaccine availability. In addition, people suffering from influenza may not go to the doctor or to the emergency room in time for the antivirals to be effective. Also, as the flu adapts to resist existing treatments, we are in search of new therapies to save lives and prevent severe illness.
"Our research seems to show that Eritoran could provide doctors with a new tool in their flu-fighting toolbox, as well as several more days to treat the sickest of patients successfully.
"More basic research is needed, but we are hopeful that this medication could one day change the way that we treat severe influenza and possibly other pathogens that cause disease by a similar mechanism," added Vogel.