The CDC called on OMRF immunologists Linda Thompson, Ph.D., and Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., to use their expertise to help gather antibodies against the virus.
"This version of the flu is caused by a pig virus that is only distantly related to human viruses included in recent versions of the seasonal influenza vaccine," Thompson said. "This means that the protection afforded by yearly influenza vaccinations may not be optimal." However, she said, "The good news is that this newly emergent strain of swine flu appears to be responsive to treatment with the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu."
OMRF has begun to ship antibodies it has produced to the CDC that bind to H1N1 viruses-and, thus, are potentially useful in the diagnosis and treatment of Swine Flu.
"The human body manufactures antibodies and memory cells when the immune system comes into contact with a virus," said Thompson, who holds the Putnam City Schools Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF. "When someone is given a vaccine for flu, it contains purified parts of the virus, which spurs the immune system to create the right antibodies to defend against a full-strength viral attack and also to make memory cells. If a real flu infection happens later, the memory cells wake up and start making antibodies to combat the virus."
The CDC hopes to use the antibodies to create a rapid diagnostic test to allow doctors to quickly determine if patients have the new strain of Swine Flu. If any of the antibodies neutralize the virus, it could be put into mass production to provide passive immunity to healthcare workers and to treat those with the most serious cases of Swine Flu.