Scientists report in the current issue of the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology the isolation of a group of high-affinity antibodies that are potent inhibitors of a wide range of influenza viruses, including the H5N1 avian flu, the 1918 Spanish flu and some seasonal strains . The antibodies may someday be used to create a vaccine that provides lifetime immunity from the flu.
Seasonal flu hospitalizes an average of 226,000 people in the U.S. annually, killing 36,000 every year . Influenza A viruses have been associated with an increasing number of deaths; from 1990 — 1999, the greatest mean number of flu deaths were associated with influenza A (H3N2) viruses . Each season, between one quarter- and a half-million people die of influenza worldwide .