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Gene expression signatures as a therapeutic target for severe H7N9 influenza – what do we know so far?


A novel H7N9 avian influenza A virus (IAV) emerged in China in early 2013 causing > 450 cases of respiratory illness and 175 deaths within a 20-month period. Though avian viruses infect humans infrequently, the lack of human immunity to these viruses raises the possibility of a pandemic if they were to acquire the ability to transmit efficiently. Despite the fact that IAV pathogenicity results from the cytopathic effects and tissue damage caused by both viral replication and an overly robust immune response, current IAV therapeutics only target the viral proteins. This has led to the emergence of drug resistance due to the high mutation rates of viruses. The growing obsolescence of our current influenza therapeutics underscores the need for alternative treatment strategies. One promising area of research is the use of drugs that target the host response to IAV infection. This article describes how gene expression profiling can be used to predict drugs that reverse the destructive effects of the host response to H7N9 and other pathogenic influenza viruses.

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