When University of Hong Kong experts say something looks good, I believe them. Via The Standard, a March 17 report: HKU breakthrough in fight against bird flu.
University of Hong Kong scientists hope an experimental drug used for acute respiratory distress syndrome could better treat the dreaded bird flu H5N1 virus.
The School of Public Health first discovered that H5N1 causes severe pneumonia by impairing proteins called sodium and chloride transporter molecules in the lungs that help draw fluid out of the organs.
With the discovery of the mechanism of infection, the scientists have begun laboratory testing an experimental treatment for H5N1 using mesenchymal stromal cells.
The bone marrow-derived stromal cells are already undergoing clinical trials for sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome in the United States.
But no one has tested whether the same cells also could be effective against viral respiratory infections such as flu.
The treatment strategy could also be used against other bird flu viruses, H7N9 and H9N2, as well as MERS and SARS coronaviruses, said the lead researcher, the school's assistant professor Michael Chan Chi-wai.
Using laboratory mice, the 14-member team found that H5N1 infection impaired fluid clearance in the lungs' alveoli tiny sacs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream more than did seasonal virus.
The infected cells release "soluble factors" that impair the alveolar sodium and chloride transporters, the team said.
"Mesenchymal stromal cells prevented or reduced this effect in vitro and in vivo in H5N1-infected mice. These cells provide a potentially effective treatment for acute lung injury in severe influenza," the report concluded.
Chan said: "We showed that when mice are infected with H5N1, it will inhibit the proteins and the mice developed edemas, lung infection and died. If we treat mice with mesenchymal stromal cells so that activity of sodium and chloride transporter proteins return back to normal, it resolved the edemas."
The study was published in PNAS, but I don't think it's online yet. If you know where the link is, please let me know and I'll update this post.