Influenza A viruses continue to cause widespread morbidity and mortality. There is an added concern that the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A viruses, currently found throughout many parts of the world, represent a serious public health threat and may result in a pandemic. Intervention strategies to halt an influenza epidemic or pandemic are a high priority, with an emphasis on vaccines and antiviral drugs. In these studies, we demonstrate that a 20-amino-acid peptide (EB, for entry blocker) derived from the signal sequence of fibroblast growth factor 4 exhibits broad-spectrum antiviral activity against influenza viruses including the H5N1 subtype in vitro. The EB peptide was protective in vivo, even when administered postinfection. Mechanistically, the EB peptide inhibits the attachment to the cellular receptor, preventing infection. Further studies demonstrated that the EB peptide specifically binds to the viral hemagglutinin protein. This novel peptide has potential value as a reagent to study virus attachment and as a future therapeutic.
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