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San Diego Scientist Finds a Way to Stop the Flu

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Aired 4/20/09

A scientist at San Diego's Burnham Institute says he and a group of researchers may have discovered a way to stop all flu viruses. KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge has more.

Influenza is a deadly, evasive virus. It changes quickly, every year, to dodge medications and fool the body's immune system. But Dr. Robert Liddington, of the Burnham Institute, says he's found a better target. He says the flu virus is like a lollypop, with a head and a stem. While the head changes quickly, the stem does not. And Liddington has discovered an antibody that disables the stem, which links the virus to human cells. He says this treatment works for many kinds of flu, and its impact could be huge.

Liddington: There's a very real possibility that we could eradicate influenze essentially altogether. Certainly within North America.

He says this kind of treatment is not a vaccine and it might be costly. But in the case of a deadly flu pandemic, it would be well worth the money. Tom Fudge, KPBS news.

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