Saturday, November 12, 2005

November 11 Flu Update--The Cytokine Storm

Many people have theorized why certain flu pandemics are so virulent. Especially puzzling is the number of young people who die of flu. A common theory is the cytokine storm, which especially means that something in the flu virus provokes the body's own immune system to attack its own body. Young people see their robust immune systems turned against them.

Research announced yesterday looks at H5N1 in this respect, perhaps the most important findings we have seen in some time.

The bird flu virus that has raised the spectre of a new flu pandemic causes 10 times as much inflammation in human lung cells as regular flu, according to new research.


When a virus or bacterium invades the body, the immune cells kick out inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. But if the immune system is over-stimulated, it can unleash a "cytokine storm," causing massive damage to tissues.

The researchers compared the levels of cytokines produced by strains of the H5N1 bird flu that circulated in Hong Kong in 1997, and in Vietnam in 2004, with a human flu virus.

Twenty-four hours after infection with H5N1, the human lung cells contained 10 times the levels of the inflammatory proteins as lung cells infected with a regular flu.

Via Crofsblogs, the actual scientific abstract on the cytokine storm.

Wikipedia on cytokines.

Hong Kong report on the research.

As if to illustate the research, a boy (18) in Thailand has bird flu.

H5N1 has reached the Middle East--the Kuwaiti case is confirmed H5N1.

Recombinomics on Kuwait.

China continues to be transparent, reporting its seventh and eighth bird flu outbreaks.

Also, a second potential Chinese human case is being investigated.

CIDRAP scans the news from Asia and the Middle East.

The state-run Swedish pharmacy has said that it has seen a sharp increase in Tamiflu sales.

Having said that, the heat stays on Roche. They have been under pressure to increase supply. Here, WaPo says they are under pressure to cut prices, too.

VOA on flu on the APEC agenda.

We have to understand how important birds are to Asians. Culling birds in Asia has been compared to culling dogs in the US. Here's an interesting story on the collison of culture and virus.

Time Magazine reports that the feelings upon leaving Geneva this week is that the world is winning the battle against bird flu, and that it might all came to naught.

A Vietnam paper says the US sent $6.5 million to Vietnam to help fight bird flu.

Local story from Oregon on the looming bird flu.

Take it for what its worth, here's a press release on an air purifier that claims to kill bird flu.

Officials in Missouri say planning is the key to stopping the bird flu.

Here's an interesting guest letter to a paper at Johns-Hopkins on bird flu preparations.

Numbers for surge capacity across the U.S. paint a similarly grim picture. In a statistic cited in the New England Journal of Medicine, 100,000 mechanical ventilators will be needed in an influenza pandemic, while the U.S. has only 105,000 (of which 80,000 are already in use).

This gap between current capacity and pandemic needs means that many, perhaps even most, influenza victims will not receive necessary treatment in case of an outbreak.

Equally alarming is the slighting of community preparedness in Bush's research-heavy initiative.

CIDRAP has this report where CDC corrects records--its not sending 1918 virus to labs around the US.

At the end of a news conference on flu vaccine supply issues yesterday, CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said, "There was an unfortunate report that appeared in a media outlet today that indicated that CDC was distributing its reconstructed 1918 virus to other parts of the country for scientific investigation. I just want to set the record straight on this. CDC has no plans currently to distribute the reconstructed virus anywhere. We're working on it here in Atlanta. We have collaborations with investigators to come into our campus and work with the virus here."

Effect Measure declares Bush bird flu plan stillborn.

Effect Measure on how US bird flu leader Simonson was selected. Note this quote, originally from the Nation.

When Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently speculated, "If something comes along that is truly a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence," many of those professionally concerned with such scenarios couldn't help thinking of Simonson.

Recombinomics on continued outbreaks in Liaoning.

Yum Brands (owners of KFC) saw its stock price tumble Friday due to bird flu fears. I swear that news that KFC was going to advertise to people not to worry about bird flu led to this stock response.

(Sorry to be late. Another all-nighter with the Cub Scouts).


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