A drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis has been found to reduce some of the severe symptoms of the Influenza A virus infection, say researchers from University of Maryland.
The study suggests that tempering the response of the body's immune system to influenza infection may alleviate some of the more severe illness and even reduce mortality from this virus.
The team found that mice infected with the Influenza A virus responded favourably to a drug called Abatacept, which is commonly used to treat people with rheumatoid arthritis.
"We found that treating the mice with Abatacept minimized tissue damage caused by the immune response, but still enabled the body to rid itself of the virus," said Dr Donna L. Farber, a professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the study's senior author.
"The mice didn't become as sick, recovered much faster and had much less damage to the lungs, compared to mice that weren't given the drug.
"Moreover, treatment with Abatacept significantly improved survival for mice infected with a lethal dose of influenza virus," she added.
The treated mice were 80 percent more likely to survive the infection, compared to 50 percent for those who weren't treated.
"We believe that our findings are very significant because they provide a potential new treatment for infection by the influenza virus - one that would dampen the immune response, yet still preserve its protective effects," said Dr. Farber.
The study appears in The Journal of Immunology.