Targeting Respiratory Viral Infections with a New Immunotherapy Treatment

A researcher at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine has created a novel, more effective therapy for acute respiratory viral infections, a significant global cause of illness each year.

Targeting Respiratory Viral Infections with a New Immunotherapy Treatment
UCF College of Medicine, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Assistant Professor Tara Strutt worked with Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. candidate Mishfak A.M. Mansoor to develop the immunotherapy treatment to target respiratory viral infections. Image Credit: University of Central Florida

Flu, pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and coronavirus are examples of acute respiratory viral diseases. According to the World Health Organization, these diseases are responsible for millions of illnesses throughout the world, with the flu alone causing 3 million to 5 million cases of severe sickness and up to 650,000 respiratory deaths annually.

The newly developed therapy, which is currently ready for licensing, employs carefully regulated, targeted immune system-related proteins called cytokines to attack infections and encourage healing.

Interventions that can improve the outcome of serious viral infection without interfering with effective anti-viral immune responses are urgently needed.

Tara Strutt, Assistant Professor, Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Central Florida

As a cellular immunologist, Strutt is extremely familiar with the functions of cytokines, which are a component of the body’s defense against infections.

Strutt added, “Cytokines can do good things, and they can do bad things. For example, during severe infections, an overactive immune response can trigger a cytokine storm, a condition in which excess cytokine production leads to uncontrolled inflammation. This hyperinflammation can ultimately cause tissue damage and organ failure.

Interleukin-2 (IL-2) is a cytokine that Strutt is employing that has been permitted for cancer immunotherapy. The various off-target consequences that could lead to organ and tissue damage are one of the difficulties with IL-2-based treatment, according to Strutt.

Strutt’s immunotherapy treatment overcomes this by combining IL-2 with a monoclonal antibody specific for IL-2 to generate an IL-2 antibody complex, also known as targeted IL-2.

Both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory responses can be induced by the targeted IL-2. Further problems, such as cytokine storms, can be avoided, and clinical results can be improved, by controlling the inflammatory response.

When targeted IL-2 was delivered during influenza virus infection in animal trials conducted in the Strutt laboratory, better results were reported. These improvements included enhanced respiratory performance and decreased airway inflammation.

Targeted IL-2 was shown to almost eliminate bronchial inflammation while encouraging an antiviral inflammatory response during viral infection.

The development of memory CD4 T-cells has also been demonstrated to benefit from the use of targeted IL-2. These CD4 T-cells offer defense against pathogens that have already been exposed through infection or immunization. According to Strutt, this treatment could improve the immune responses induced by vaccinations.

Source:
Journal reference:

Alam, F., et al. (2020). CD25-Targeted IL-2 Signals Promote Improved Outcomes of Influenza Infection and Boost Memory CD4 T Cell Formation. The Journal of Immunology. doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.2000205

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