When you're down with the flu or some other hard-to-shake viral infection, chances are you've begged your doctor for antibiotics to help speed up your recovery. But antibiotics are only good for bacterial diseases like, say, strep throat. They don't do anything when you have the flu, bronchitis, or colds.
That may change in the near future. Because scientists have discovered how viruses are able to attack the body, they are one step closer to developing drugs that will fight infections.
It turns out that viruses are carried into the cell by small bubbles (called endosomes), which are able to penetrate the cell's outer membrane. How resilient cells are to invading viruses depends on genetics: Some people are born with a gene called IFITM3 that determines whether the membrane of their cells open up to let in the virus, or form a tougher barrier against it.
This explains why some people are knocked out by certain diseases, and others develop milder cases (or don't get sick at all).
With this understanding, scientists now can develop anti-viral treatments to harness the power of the human body's own defenses, much like how antibiotics work against bacterial infections.
For now, though, you'll still have to get your flu shot.
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