Most cases of severe influenza are associated with pulmonary complications, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and no antiviral drugs of proven value for treating such complications are currently available. The use of monoclonal antibodies targeting the stem of the influenza virus surface hemagglutinin (HA) is a rapidly developing strategy for the control of viruses of multiple HA subtypes. However, the mechanisms of action of these antibodies are not fully understood, and their ability to mitigate severe complications of influenza has been poorly studied. We evaluated the effect of treatment with VIS410, a human monoclonal antibody targeting the HA stem region, on the development of ARDS in BALB/c mice after infection with influenza A(H7N9) viruses. Prophylactic administration of VIS410 resulted in the complete protection of mice against lethal A(H7N9) virus challenge. A single therapeutic dose of VIS410 given 24 h after virus inoculation resulted in dose-dependent protection of up to 100% of mice inoculated with neuraminidase inhibitor-susceptible or -resistant A(H7N9) viruses. Compared to the outcomes in mock-treated controls, a single administration of VIS410 improved viral clearance from the lungs, reduced virus spread in lungs in a dose-dependent manner, resulting in a lower lung injury score, reduced the extent of the alteration in lung vascular permeability and protein accumulation in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and improved lung physiologic function. Thus, antibodies targeting the HA stem can reduce the severity of ARDS and show promise as agents for controlling pulmonary complications in influenza.
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