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Can 'Universal' Flu Drug Stop Swine Flu?

H1N1 Swine Flu Will Test Claim That Drug Can Prevent or Cure Any Flu Type

Universal Flu Drug: Affordable? continued...

Marasco insists that the answer is yes. Here's why: Instead of offering the new drug to the highest bidder, Marasco and colleagues asked drug companies to guarantee that the drug would be made available to people who need it -- regardless of their ability to pay.

"My primary concern is global health," Marasco says. "There is plenty of money to be made from the prevention and treatment of seasonal flu. I do not want that to interfere with [our drug's] very real ability to be a preventative agent in a pandemic."

Marasco says major drug companies have accepted this proposal and are competing to license the antibodies.

Meanwhile, he says that preliminary studies suggest that 3 million doses of the drug cold be made in 12 weeks at a cost of less than $10 a dose.

To prevent flu, a dose of the antibodies would have to be given every three to four weeks. It's not a pill -- the antibodies must be delivered via injection. It's not yet clear how large a dose would be needed to treat a dangerous case of flu -- so far, the antibodies have only been tested in mice.

Human studies, Marasco says, should be up and running by the 2010-2011 flu season -- unless the threat of a flu pandemic hastens the process.

Eventually, of course, the goal will be to make a vaccine that will cause people to make these antibodies themselves. Such a vaccine would protect against every known type A flu -- and might make annual flu shots obsolete.

Will Universal Flu Drug Fight H1N1 Swine Flu?

The big question right now is whether Marasco and colleagues are right -- and whether the new H1N1 swine flu does indeed have the predicted vulnerability to the "universal" antibodies.

Those studies are under way. Results should be announced very soon.

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