BOSTON, April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Replikins, Ltd. has discovered of a group of virus peptides that predict whether a virus is rapidly replicating and whether it is likely to spread. The company has designed software which can now detect and count these proteins which may allow scientists to better predict viral epidemics, such as the H5N1 (avian) flu.
To date, no protein or other biological phenomenon has been known to correlate with viral epidemics. Researchers have had no objective quantitative protein based means to predict if, and what, strain of a given viral organism will become a public health threat. The current concern over when, or if, there will be an avian flu epidemic has drawn attention to the need for improved measures to help predict, prevent and prepare for emerging health threats.
"We have identified a group of viral peptides we call 'Replikins' whose concentration correlates with rapid viral replication, and can give advance notice of virus epidemics," said Samuel Bogoch, M.D., PhD, a former faculty member of Harvard and Boston University School of Medicine who with his wife and colleague Dr. Elenore Bogoch discovered this new group of peptides.
Groups of Replikins can now be categorized and counted, using computerized software programs, providing a forecasting method. The FluForecast(TM) program analyzes the peptide sequences of a virus and can indicate by the virus's strain-specific Replikins concentration in viral proteins which strains are replicating rapidly, thereby creating the potential for an epidemic. The FluForecast(TM) program has quantitatively analyzed historical data on Replikins (from 1917 to the present) in protein sequences in strains of influenza viruses saved by agencies such as the World Health Organization and The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The FluForecast(TM) program has shown that higher concentrations of Replikins correlate with the emergence of epidemics and lower concentrations of Replikins correlate with dormancy in the three great flu pandemics of the past century and in the H5N1 outbreaks of recent years (see data in Figures 1 and 2 attached below).
"Combined with the software that analyzes viral strains, we now -- for the first time -- have an objective means of determining the threat level of a virus," said Dr. Sam Bogoch. "To our knowledge, there is no other product which provides this predictive information."
Replikins' structures have been found to be conserved both intrastrain and interstrain for as long as 87 years, based on data going back to the 1917-18 flu pandemic. Some Replikin structures appear for only one or a few years, but some persist, that is are conserved for decades. In 2002 Replikins scientist Dr. Bogoch did a Replikin analysis of the published partial sequence of the 1917 influenza virus isolated from a goose and the sequence of the influenza virus that caused the 1918 human influenza pandemic. Dr. Bogoch showed that the structures, (Replikin structures) of the bird and human influenza strains were closely related and concluded that the pandemic of 1918 derived from this 1917 sequence of the bird flu. Dr. Bogoch's assertion was confirmed in a recent Nature article of 2005. The conservation of Replikin structures as identified by the FluForecast(TM) program creates a more constant target for the development of vaccines to prevent future contagious outbreaks.
In explaining how the Replikins proteins were identified Dr. Bogoch, who founded the Neurochemistry Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, said, "We initially looked at rapid cell replication in tomato gemini virus, which causes great losses of tomato crops, and at other infectious diseases. We searched for similarities between viruses and bacteria, which can duplicate rapidly. For example we found that the slowly replicating HIV virus has a Replikin Count(TM) peptide quantity of 1.1 and the rapidly replicating HIV virus has a Replikin Count(TM) peptide quantity of 6.8. We first focused on the influenza virus, because the C.D.C. has epidemiological data available going back nearly 100 years, and we discovered a pattern of the same peptides in virus outbreaks.
"After that, we developed the software to study the Replikins quantitatively to give advanced warning for the first time of virus outbreaks and dormancy. In addition, Replikins provide novel targets for future antiviral agents."
This Saturday, April 22nd, Replikins and the FluForecast(TM) program will be discussed and demonstrated in Boston at a meeting at Replikins, Ltd., 38 The Fenway, Boston at 10:30 am. The company recently closed a significant round of financing to introduce the FluForecast(TM) program and Replikins technology. Additional information is available at www.replikins.com.