A natural lipid in the fluid lining the lungs inhibits influenza infections in both cell cultures and mouse models, according to researchers at National Jewish Health. These findings, combined with previous studies demonstrating effectiveness against respiratory syncytial virus, suggest that the lipid molecule, known as POPG, may have broad antiviral activity. “Supplemental POPG could be an important, inexpensive, and novel approach for the prevention and treatment of influenza and other respiratory virus infections,” said Dr. Dennis Voelker, Professor of Medicine, and senior author of the report, published online on November 3, 2011 in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. Influenza infects millions of people across the globe, killing 500,000 each year. Vaccines are highly effective, but must be reformulated each year to counter new viral strains. Two classes of drug are currently available to treat established influenza infections, although widespread resistance has developed against one class and is developing against the other. Several proteins that inhibit viral activity have been identified in the fluid lining the lungs. Until recently, however, the antiviral role of POPG (palmitoyl-oleoyl-phosphatidylglycerol) has been unknown. Previous research by Dr. Voelker, Dr. Mari Numata, and their colleagues demonstrated that POPG reduces inflammation in the lung and prevents infection by respiratory syncytial virus. In the most recent study, the researchers looked at the ability of POPG to inhibit infection by two strains of influenza, H1N1-PR8 and H3N2. They found that POPG suppressed inflammatory responses, viral propagation, and cell death normally associated with influenza infection.
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