A team of researchers from the University of Melbourne and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) has discovered a new protein that protects against viral infections, such as influenza.

Led by Dr Linda Wakim, the researchers believe they possess a vital vlue as to why some people fight infections better than others.

The breakthrough came after a prolonged investigation of the ‘defensive devices’ contained within the T-cell on exposed body surfaces, such as skin and mucosal surfaces. T-cells detect cells infected with viruses and kill them before the virus can reproduce within the infected cell and spread to other cells.

Researchers found these cells contain the protein IFITM3 and this makes them more resistant to viral infections such as Influenza. The findings have been published in Nature Immunology.

Dr Wakim said “We are currently trying to understand why some T-cells and not others express this protective molecule. Probably they encounter some form of chemical signal (a cytokine, or a surface molecule) in the tissues where they lodge, which induces the expression of IFITM3. If we identify these chemical cues, we may be able to include them in future vaccines.”