PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 22, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Hemispherx Biopharma (NYSE MKT:HEB), today announced that Dr. William M. Mitchell of Vanderbilt University presented a research paper on January 21, 2014 at the Keystone Symposia Conference on Pathogenesis of Respiratory Viruses entitled " Protection from Pulmonary Tissue Damage Associated with Infection of Cynomolgus Macaques by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) by Low Dose Natural Human IFN-α Administered to the Buccal Mucosa." This presentation is a collaborative project conducted at Viroclinics, Rotterdam, an internationally recognized research entity for the study of both seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses. The biohazard facilities are directed by Prof. Albert D.M.E. Osterhaus, an internationally known virologist specializing in the study of pandemic influenza. The global threat of an influenza pandemic emerging from avian H5N1 and H7N9 influenza viruses that are highly pathogenic for humans has mobilized a variety of efforts to mitigate the potential devastating human and economic consequences. A key element in governmental responses has been neuraminidase inhibitor stockpiling for therapeutic or prophylactic uses although the development of viral resistance secondary to genetic changes without loss of viral fitness is a constant threat to their human deployment. Infection of humans with H5N1 is associated with a high mortality rate (~60%) due to an alveolar destructive primary viral pneumonia frequently expressed clinically as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) (Abdel-Ghafar et al. N. Engl. J. Med. 2008; 358:261-273). Using an established non-human primate model for H5N1 infection (Kuiken T, et al. Vet Pathol. 2003;40:304-310), the collaborative team evaluated the potential for the prophylactic mitigation of the pulmonary damage characteristic of fatal cases from primary influenza virus pneumonia using a low dose oral (LDO) formulation of a commercially available parenteral natural human interferon alpha (Alferon N Injection®). The study demonstrated a dose-dependent sparing of the H5N1 induced pulmonary damage. Clinical studies will be required to validate similar results in humans from highly pathogenic H5N1, H7N9, or similar emerging avian influenza viruses.