Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 17 Flu Update

More evidence for the idea that the 1918 flu was deadly because it provoked the immune system into attacking the body in hyperdrive. This comes from Nature Magazine.

If you want to understand what this is about, this Effect Measure post is for you. It is all good, so I don't want to excerpt it. It is a must read--especially the end on how a small number of amino acids may determine transmissibility.

To hear discussion of the Nature report, here is a link to their podcast, which features interviews with the researchers from this study.

Here's a local (Wisconsin) story on one of the researchers. He wonders if you couldn't treat the immune response and the flu symptoms at the same time.

CIDRAP on the study on 1918 virus--note end of article reviews a study on using statins in fighting infectious disease, including pneumonia.

Flu in Egypt is resistant to Tamiflu.

The flu in Japan has been determined to be highly virulent.

Bird flu in Thailand is confirmed in four birds, and it was high path.

Meanwhile, four suspected cases in Vietnam have been determined to be pneumonia.

The US has awarded contracts to three companies who are developing adjuvant-enhanced vaccines.

Australia is doing surveillance. Don't expect to find anything.

Hmm. In Iceland, they have determined that cod enzyme kills H5N1.

Helen Branswell on the recreation of the 1918 virus in a Winnipeg lab.

In the Philippines, a bird flu education program has begun.

Here's a company with a contract for an influenza patch.

An historic lecture on pandemic flu will be held in Beaumont, TX.


At 7:12 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


I have two general comments to you about today’s news.

First, my reaction regarding the 1918 reconstructed virus monkey study conducted in Canada and published today in Nature magazine, and Revere’s and CIDRAP’s explanation and interpretation. If I understand things correctly, as predicted, the H1 type 1918 virus caused the monkey’s immune system to over react, kick into overdrive and somehow corrupt the bodies defenses. The same exact immune response these monkeys exhibited, is also seen in people infected with the H5N1 virus in Asia and the middle east. The lungs are essentially irreparably destroyed, and in some cases vital organs, in a few days. Primarily, a key unknown protein “hijacks” the host’s immune system, by inhibiting the body’s ability to fight off the invading virus. The exact underlying cause of all of this is presently… unknown, specifically. Conceptually, as suggested by CIDRAP, the statin group of drugs might be used to regulate and dampen down the body’s inflammatory response.

My first observation and major concern is whether we really, really, really, know enough about the interaction of adjuvant-based avian flu vaccines currently in development, with the human immune system when it is infected with H5N1 (ie, the results and observations of this monkey study), to be absolutely certain we are not making a bad problem, worse. The current government plan primarily hinges on the use adjuvant’s in conjunction with an injectable pre-pandemic influenza vaccine, to stimulate immune responses. The intent is clearly to use adjuvants as a way to stretch the very limited supply of valuable pre-pandemic avian vaccine. I am very concerned that we may end up exacerbating the situation without further safety and immunogenicity assessments – we may end up disregulating the immune system worse. This kind of makes sense to me.

My second comment and concern relates to the news coming out of both Vietnam and Egypt – about Oseltamivir-resistant H5N1 strains found. The suggestion is being made in the news, that we may to have fall back to Zanamir or the Amantadine or Rimantadine hydrochloride drugs, in addition to stronger doses of Oseltamivir – and even supplement these with antibiotics. The problem I have with this “cocktail” HIV-type approach is that it is just not practical to treat large numbers of people this way during a pandemic. Both Zanamir and the hydrochloride drugs are more expensive than Tamiflu. Zanamir is shipped in powder form and inhaled. I absolutely don’t see how combinations of these drugs and antibiotics can be feasible to prescribe and medicate in mass human quantities during a pandemic. Throw in the adjuvants and who is going to be the first human guinea pigs for this gigantic pandemic experiment – the poor ?

We need to do a lot more research like this monkey study. And quickly.

Jonas Salk said “ I feel that the greatest reward for doing, is the opportunity to do more”.

Another smart person we should listen to.



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