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 is the most common respiratory pathogen in infants and young children and has infected nearly all infants by the age of two years. Meanwhile, there are 2,200 hospital admissions for influenza in Australia each year, with 80 per cent of those being people under 65.
Working alongside researchers at the WHO Influenza Reference Centre in Melbourne and the University of Queensland, Associate Professor Nigel McMillan from the Griffith Health Institute will use a new form of gene silencing technology that works to attack 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 viruses and 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 targeted and 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 expand on this technology in a fairly rapid time frame and should be undertaking human clinical trials of the therapy within the next three to five years.
“The ultimate goal is to be able to treat young children in hospitals who are affected with deadly 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 development of a new range of therapies based on gene silencing using nanoparticles for effective delivery.
The knowledge gained will also form the basis for treatment delivery to the lungs for other conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis, he said.