In an advance toward development of a nasal spray that protects against infection with influenza and spread of the disease, scientists are reporting identification of a substance that activates the first-line defense system against infection inside the nose. They describe effects of a synthetic form of a natural substance found in bacterial cell walls in ACS’ journal Molecular Pharmaceutics.
David Jackson, from The University of Melbourne, and colleagues explain that the body’s so-called innate immune system forms a first-line defense system against respiratory diseases like influenza A — which causes up to 1 billion infections and 500,000 deaths during seasonal epidemics. Those defenses swing into action almost immediately when viruses enter the nose and begin launching an infection. Scientists have been looking for ways to jump-start those defenses during flu outbreaks, and Jackson’s team turned to Pam2Cys. That synthetic lipoprotein, a substance consisting of a fat and a protein, has shown promise in activating the innate immune system.
The team found in laboratory tests that using Pam2Cys as a nasal spray primes the body’s immune system to fight infections. Importantly, they showed that the compound encourages but does not replace a normal immune response, which has been a concern about some anti-viral medicines. Because Pam2Cys stimulates the immune system against a wide spectrum of viral and bacterial attacks, the authors suggest it may be a particularly useful agent against pandemics and emerging viral strains.
The authors acknowledge funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.