New virology research indicates that host cells, which have a natural ability to restrict viral infection, can be used to combat the influenza virus. The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Virology.

Researchers examined the role of one specific host component – histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) – and its involvement in the various stages of the influenza virus life cycle.

“The influenza virus uses host cell machinery to replicate itself and cause disease,” said Dr Matloob Husein. “Influenza assembles its progeny at a specific compartment of the host cell. All of the necessary components must be transported to this compartment in order to complete the replication cycle. We have found that HDAC6 exerts its anti-influenza virus function by decreasing the transport of viral components to this compartment thereby inhibiting the virus assembly.”

Without all the necessary components needed to assemble its progeny, the virus is unable to reproduce and spread.

Dr Husain says HDAC6 is an important human protein and is already the target of anti-cancer drugs. In addition, several drugs targeting HDAC6 are also under clinical development for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and inflammatory disorders.

“Our findings would indicate that anti-viral drugs leveraging HDAC6’s natural ability to restrict infection could be developed to combat influenza. Furthermore, an advantage of this approach would be less likelihood of viral resistance.”