A super-drug for a super-bug?

A super-drug for a super-bug?

Can scientists get rid of 'flu forever?

Have you ever had the flu? It's a common disease that can make you feel very ill. Fear not - scientists may have found a super-drug that can help us win the war against the flu.

Flu is caused by the influenza virus, a very tiny organism invisible to the naked eye. This virus multiplies within human cells to produce millions of copies of itself and spreads from person to person when we cough or sneeze. Have a look at this video that shows how the flu virus attacks the human body.

The flu virus has little "keys" on its surface, which attach to "locks" on the surface of the human cell.


Flu viruses attaching to a human cell

Imagine a real lock and key. If you covered the surface of the key with playdough, it would be nearly impossible to insert the key into its lock. This is similar to your body's response to the flu virus - your body produces Y-shaped sticky molecules called antibodies. The arms of the Y-shaped antibody attach to the "key" on the viral surface, preventing it from attaching to locks on your body cells.


Antibodies preventing flu viruses from attaching to a human cell

With most viruses, the "keys" remain same generation after generation, so a one-time injection with antibodies - the Y-shaped sticky molecules - can prevent you ever getting the virus. However with the flu virus, the "keys" change with every generation. This process is called mutation.

Every year the scientists have to figure out which "keys" are likely to appear on the surface of the virus. Scientists make a cocktail of antibodies that can attach to the "keys". This goes into your flu jab.

Now scientists have discovered one antibody that can attach to all the "keys" on the flu virus. In their experiment, the scientists injected lots of healthy volunteers with the flu bug and tested the antibodies that the volunteers produced. As they were scanning through hundreds of results, they hit the ultimate jackpot - a super-antibody that can attach to all forms of the "key" on the flu virus, no matter how fast the virus changes its "keys".   This gives cells in our immune system a chance to find the virus and kill it.

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Hooray - no more flu!

This discovery has caused great excitement - imagine never ever being stuck at home feeling miserable because you have caught the flu! It's especially great news for babies or elderly people, both of who do not produce a lot of antibodies and can get really ill when the flu virus attacks. If enough people got the vaccine, we could potentially eradicate flu from the planet, just like we did with small pox. The scientists are now trying to grow the antibodies in large quantities and test it on more volunteers. Keep an eye out for it, the super-antibody may soon be available at your local doctors!

By Zara Mahmoud