US researchers have found a animal molecule in some modern drugs that can cause an immune response in some patients.
Nearly all types of sialic acids are found in mammals including humans, apart from one.
Neu5GC, which is found in mammals including chimpanzees and gorillas, can cause an immune response that can have have a damaging inflammatory effect in some patients, according to the researchers.
The US scientists found that many modern biotech drugs derived from animal sources – some of which are actually used to treat inflammatory disorders – are contaminated with the sugar.
The non-human sugar is also present in meat and could help explain dietary associations with heart disease and cancer, according to the scientists.
At the same time the sugars are targets for infectious diseases such as influenza, malaria and cholera.
“It’s reasonable to suggest that for some patients who have problems with some drugs, this may be part of the reason why,” said Professor Ajit Varki, who led the research published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Copyright Press Association 2010