A research team from Chang Gung Memorial Hospital has discovered five antibodies that could potentially be used in drugs to combat the influenza virus A subtype H7N9, which can infect humans, team leader Huang Kuan-ying (黃冠穎) said on Tuesday.
The team worked for four years to find antibodies from infected humans that could neutralize the H7N9 strain, Huang said.
From 2014 to last year, it managed to characterize 73 H7-reactive monoclonal antibodies isolated from peripheral B cells in four donors infected in 2013 and 2014, he said, adding that 17 of the 73 antibodies proved capable of neutralizing the virus.
Twelve of the antibodies later became inactive after undergoing antigenic changes, but five have retained the potential to counteract the H7N9 strain, Huang said.
The team’s findings were published in February by Nature Microbiology, a leading online journal, a hospital news release said.
H7N9 is a strain of bird flu that normally circulates among avian populations, but some variants are known to infect humans.
Since 2013, when the H7N9 strain was first detected in humans in China, 1,568 laboratory-confirmed cases of infected humans have been recorded, including 615 deaths, with a mortality rate of nearly 40 percent, WHO figures showed.
Since 2013, Taiwan has reported five confirmed cases of humans being infected with the H7N9 strain, all of whom picked up the infectoin in China.