Expatriate health insurance policies may soon be able to provide people with a nasal spray that can fight the flu.
A study published in the American Chemical Society's journal Molecular Pharmaceuticals reported that scientists have identified a compound that activates the defence system against infections in the nose.
Researchers also described the effects a synthetic version of the substance can cause.
The study, which was led by David Jackson and colleagues and was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, found that the body's first-line defence against flu quickly leaps into defence when viruses enter the nose.
Investigators wished to jump-start this response and used synthetic lipoprotein Pam2Cys to help them achieve this goal.
Pam2Cycs showed potential in activating the human's innate immune responses and using it as a nasal spray could therefore prepare the body to fight the flu.
Furthermore, the scientists revealed that the substance – which consists of one protein and fat – does not replace the normal response expected by the immune system, but it encourages them.
As Pam2Cys was found to have a stimulating effect against a large number of bacterial and viral attacks, the scientists argued it could be useful when combating emerging viruses and dealing with pandemics.
It could therefore help mankind to deal with respiratory ailments such as influenza A, otherwise known as the flu.
During a typical seasonal epidemic, this disease can cause as many as 500,000 deaths, as well as one billion infections.
On average, a person will contract the flu every few years and symptoms appear between one and seven days after a person is infected with the virus.
The first symptom of flu is a fever of between 102 and 106 degrees F (38.9 and 41.1 degrees C), with other common complaints including a lack of energy, vomiting, nausea, flushed face, dizziness, body aches and headache.