Researchers have developed an antibody which boosts the survival chances of patients suffering from influenza and pneumonia.

Proven effective in lab tests, the antibody is now being made suitable for use among humans. The scientists are also using the new antibody to develop a diagnostic kit which can help doctors accurately track the recovery progress of flu and pneumonia patients.

"While it will take up to eight years to develop the antibody into a useable treatment for human patients, we are currently developing a diagnostic kit which should be commercialised in about three years," said Andrew Tan, associate professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Professor Tan, who led an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Singapore, developed the new antibody.

The new antibody works by blocking a protein called ANGPTL4, which was found to be in high concentration in the tissue samples taken from patients suffering from pneumonia.

"When the antibody we developed was given to mice suffering from pneumonia and influenza, these mice recovered much faster than the other mice, which did not receive the antibodies," Tan said.

The patent-pending antibody has generated much interest globally. Two biotech multinational corporations, Britain-based Abcam and US-based Adipogen International, have won the rights to licence the antibody.

The two multinational companies will produce the antibody for sale to global organisations conducting research in vaccine and drug development, the researchers said.

The World Health Organisation estimated that influenza results in about three to five million cases of severe illness worldwide each year, with about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death in children worldwide, accounting for 15 percent of all child deaths under five years of age, the study added.

The study appeared in the journal Cell Reports.