An Ottawa teen’s science project is being examined by Health Canada as a possible new way of fighting the flu.
Grade 12 Hillcrest High School student Maria Merziotis won a national science competition yesterday with an experiment that synthesizes a floating form of sialic acid (sialyllactose) that acts as a synthetic receptor for the influenza virus, which infects by binding to sialic acid on the surface of human cells.
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Working with Dr. Michel Gilbert of the National Research Council’s Institute of Biological Sciences, Merziotis, 17, theorized that injections of floating sialyllactose could potentially cause the flu virus to attach to the artificial receptor rather than cells, preventing infection.
The teen’s research has already been tested by Health Canada with encouraging results, said Merziotis.
“But it is really a long shot,” she said, “and its efficacy would really need to be tested and demonstrated in animals before it is considered for humans.”
Merziotis took the $5,000 first prize at the Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge yesterday and will compete at an international contest in San Diego next month.