Broadly protective human antibodies that target the active site of influenza virus neuraminidase

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Science  25 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6464, pp. 499-504
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay0678

Alternative influenza target

There is a pressing need for a broadly protective influenza vaccine that can neutralize this constantly varying, deadly virus. Stadlbauer et al. turned their attention away from the current vaccine target—the mutable hemagglutinin—and investigated an alternative, less variable virus-coat glycoprotein: neuraminidase. The authors extracted monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from a human donor naturally infected with the H3N2 virus subtype. In mice, the mAbs were broadly protective against influenza virus A groups 1 and 2 (human, avian, and swine origin) and some influenza B viruses. These mAbs were also therapeutically effective as late as 72 hours after infection. The wide range of reactivity probably relates to the infection history of the donor, whose plasmablasts generated antibodies with long regions that insert into the active site of the neuraminidase enzyme.

Science, this issue p. 499


Better vaccines against influenza virus are urgently needed to provide broader protection against diverse strains, subtypes, and types. Such efforts are assisted by the identification of novel broadly neutralizing epitopes targeted by protective antibodies. Influenza vaccine development has largely focused on the hemagglutinin, but the other major surface antigen, the neuraminidase, has reemerged as a potential target for universal vaccines. We describe three human monoclonal antibodies isolated from an H3N2-infected donor that bind with exceptional breadth to multiple different influenza A and B virus neuraminidases. These antibodies neutralize the virus, mediate effector functions, are broadly protective in vivo, and inhibit neuraminidase activity by directly binding to the active site. Structural and functional characterization of these antibodies will inform the development of neuraminidase-based universal vaccines against influenza virus.

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