MIPS research contributes to influenza breakthrough

July 2017

MIPS researchers have taken part in an international collaboration that may unlock better treatment of viral diseases, including the ‘flu and common cold.

Led by Dr Stavros Selemidis and Dr Eunice To from the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University and published in the prestigious scientific and medical journal Nature Communications, the research suggests a novel means of treating influenza infection (doi:10.1038/s41467-017-00057-x)

Each year the flu virus sends 13,500 Australians to hospital and causes more than 3000 deaths among those aged over 50.

There are more than 5 million cases of infection around the world annually. Up to 10 per cent result in death.

The research identifies a protein called Nox2 oxidase, which is activated by viruses including influenza, rhinovirus (the common cold), dengue and HIV. Once the protein is activated, it suppresses the body’s key antiviral reaction and its ability to fight and clear the viral infection. Testing in mice has shown that this results in a stronger or more virulent disease.

As part of this program, MIPS scientists Professor Chris Porter and Dr Tim Quach from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Convergent Bio-Nano Science (CBNS), and their colleague Dr Michelle Halls, designed a modified version of a drug that inhibits the activity of Nox2 oxidase. By linking the drug to a lipid ‘anchor’ they were able to target the drug to the specific sites within the cell where the enzyme is activated.

This prototype was found to be more effective at suppressing flu infection in mice when compared to the unmodified drug suggesting that it may ultimately be possible to design a medicine that treats ‘flu and similar diseases in humans.

The research was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and the Australian Research Council.