TAIPEI (CNA) — A medical research team from Taiwan has found five antibodies that have the potential to be used in drugs to combat the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus, which can also infect humans, the team’s head told CNA on Oct. 8.
Huang Kuan-ying (黃冠穎), head of the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital team, said his team had been analyzing neutralizing antibodies for H7N9 from naturally infected humans from 2014 to 2018.
During the four-year-period, the team managed to isolate and characterize 73 H7-reactive monoclonal antibodies from peripheral B cells from four donors infected in 2013 and 2014.
Of the 73, 17 have been proven to be able to neutralize the virus, he said.
Although 12 of the antibodies later became inactive after undergoing antigenic change, five have so far retained their activity and thus have the potential to counteract H7N9, Huang said.
The findings were published in February by “Nature Microbiology,” a leading online monthly journal that gathers research from across the field of microbiology, according to a Chang Gung Memorial Hospital press release.
H7N9 is a bird flu strain that normally circulates among avian populations, with some variants known to occasionally infect humans.
Since 2013, when the H7N9 virus infection was first detected in humans in China, a total of 1,568 laboratory-confirmed human cases have been recorded to date, including 615 deaths, with a mortality rate of nearly 40 percent, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures.
Since 2013, Taiwan has reported five confirmed cases of human H7N9 infection, all of which were imported cases from China, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
By Chang Ming-hsuan and Joseph Yeh