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Dalhousie Medical School Making Big Breaks In Influenza Research

Researchers there have made not one, but two recent discoveries related to influenza and how the virus is detected in the human body.

“It kind of showcases an emerging area of strength at Dalhousie University in influzena research,” said Dr. Craig McCormick, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology.

One team of researchers, led by Dr. Andrew Makrigiannis, head of Dalhousie’s Department of Microbiology & Immunology, discovered how the flu virus can hide and replicate inside an infected cell.

This discovery could help scientists recognize and destroy cells affected with influenza faster in the future.

Sneaky virus “clocks itself,” preventing detection

Another team of researchers have been able to determine how the virus can prevent being detected.

“Basically, our research has revealed new ways that the influenza virus cloaks itself and prevents the immune system from being able to detect an infected cell,” said Dr.McCormick.
Scientists say every year the immune system works to fight off a new influenza virus. Researchers say that by better understanding how the virus hides from our immune system, they can work to develop better antivirals for the flu.

“So basically, this gives us opportunities to develop new anti-viral drugs in the future that perhaps don’t have these problems of resistance that are emerging against anti-viral drugs that we have now,” said Dr. McCormick, who has been working at finding new advances in influenza research for the last decade.

Dr. Denys Khaperskyy, a senior research associate, has been working alongside Dr. McCormack for the last 8-years. He calls the recent discoveries very exciting.

“We are at the time when we can ask really complicated questions in a very efficient way,” said Dr. Khaperskyy.

“Now, we are at the time where we ready not only to show our research through publications to the world, but also we’ve show ourselves to be an attractive lab to collaborate with.”

The next step is for the findings to be implimented into the clinical research stage.

“We’re not that far from putting out some ideas that the pharmacutial companies can pick up,” said Dr. Khaperskyy.