Fight to treat RSV and influenza

New hope has arrived for the fight against two deadly viral infections, RSV and influenza,as Griffith researchers prepare to develop a cutting-edge approach to treatment delivery.

RSV (respiratory syncytial virus)is the most common respiratory pathogen in infants and young children and hasinfected nearly all infants by the age of two years. Meanwhile, there are 2,200 hospitaladmissions for influenza in Australia each year, with 80 per cent of those being peopleunder 65.

Working alongside researchers at the WHO Influenza Reference Centre in Melbourneand the University of Queensland, Associate Professor Nigel McMillan from the

Griffith Health Institute will use a new form of gene silencing technology that works toattack the offending virus by turning off a vital gene.

Assisted by a $500,000 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grant,research lead Professor McMillan said that the new nanoparticle delivery system will
ensure smooth delivery of treatment to the lungs via intravenous drip.

“The main problem from the past is that there have been very few drugs to treat virusesand the ones we have had, have had poor clinical success due to poor delivery,” he said.
“The beauty of this new version of gene silencing is that it is very simple, very targetedand safe. So far, it has also worked well in trials which have looked at other areas of
medical concern such as cholesterol reduction and amyloidosis. We are aiming to expandon this technology in a fairly rapid time frame and should be undertaking human clinicaltrials of the therapy within the next three to five years.

Goal to treat sick children

“The ultimate goal is to be able to treat young children in hospitals who are affected withdeadly RSV and knock the virus back. Influenza virus is a bigger problem with new
strains developing all the time — here we are developing a single therapy for all strains.”

Professor McMillan said that success of the upcoming trials will allow for the developmentof a new range of therapies based on gene silencing using nanoparticles for effective

The knowledge gained will also form the basis for treatment delivery to the lungs for otherconditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, he said.