Saturday, January 06, 2007

January 5 Flu Update

NIH continues to work on vaccine for bird flu, in this case a DNA vaccine that would allow rapid flexibility to adapt to new strains, though they are beginning with the Indonesia strain. In my opinion, this is the development that makes the whole story moot--and one we should be able to develop.

But scientists must first find out if the DNA vaccine works in humans. Two-thirds of the 45 patients in NIH's study will be given an active form of the vaccine to test it for safety and to see if it reliably prompts an immune response.

Finding out whether it can actually prevent infection with real-world H5N1 virus would be the next step.

"There are a lot of 'ifs' here," Gronvall says.

DNA vaccines against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have already shown some ability to prompt immune responses in the short term.

"We really don't know if DNA vaccines will work for flu," Nabel says.

Indonesian officials say there are two clusters of human bird flu in Indonesia, involving a total of 7 people. (I haven't seen this anywhere else yet, so that's for what it is worth).

The Associated Press quoted Nyoman Kandun, a Health Ministry official, as saying, "there are two clusters, one with two sisters, the other with three family members, and another two of their neighbours." The three children range in age from 18 months to six-years-old.

Indonesia says it is enlisting local villages as allies in the fight against bird flu.

Vietnam continues to gain praise for fighting the bird flu.

Local official Vietnam report on bird flu prevalence since 2004.

ProMed on the continued spread of flu among birds in Vietnam.

Hong Kong is on bird flu alert after having a bird test positive for H5.

ProMed on protective measures in Hong Kong.

At least sounds important--researchers have important data on how the immune system recognizes bird flu.

English zoos are vaccinating birds against avian flu.

BioCryst has $102M grant to develop new anti-viral.

CIDRAP has this story, too.

Effect Measure writes on research on the prevalence of different strains of seasonal flu, what it means for a new kind of flu (H5N1), and what we can learn when we mobilize our resources to win a big battle.

Norfolk, UK, is preparing for a bird flu pandemic by looking at the cold hard facts.

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has a pandemic prep kit for businesses to use.

The Missouri Department of Human Services has a 12-page brochure on bird flu for residents of that state.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


You have a couple of fascinating articles today that have caused my prions to start cogitating.

First I continue to be fascinated by the Revere articles, especially the one about the evolution of the H3 and H1 common influenza virus. I had read it thoroughly several days ago when they first published it and I hope they follow up on it later. As Revere points out in the article, the WHO has overseen a large network of Influenza Surveillance Labs all across the world (116 institutions/87 countries), primarily to type predominant flu variants in circulation, and to spot potentially novel new dangerous subtypes, like H5N1, on a timely basis. As a world influenza reporting and vaccine determination process, this basically makes good common sense. But evaluating the flu data and information twice a year, is not timely enough, especially in today’s influenza environment.

As we have all seen, due to the extreme difficulty of surveillance in, and the timely diagnosing and reporting of H5N1, especially in third world countries – a newer paradigm is emerging. We really need “real-time” integrated monitoring of influenza initial signals from every possible source, including symptoms, mortality, drugs dispensed (or sales), rumors of events, and media reports. At minimum, all H5N1 affected countries around the globe, in my mind, should establish infectious disease “command-and-control centers”, and flow the information into the WHO, via an electronic network. The value of daily media reports especially cannot be overlooked, since they frequently point out undetected or uncontrolled outbreaks that prestigious organizations like the WHO, CDC, HHS, CIDPC and Euro-surveillance, for example, fail to spot - until it is reported much later through their formal channels. The goal of an integrated world wide real-time influenza health monitoring system network, should be to detect unusual health events from hospitals, doctors, virologists, etc, in order to alert the public health systems of all nations, that a pandemic or problem is imminent, and intervention procedures should be considered. This all sounds like a better approach to me and I would sleep better at night.

Two unrelated comments, then I’ll cease… first, related to the CBS article, “Human tests for bird flu vaccine begin”… I understand well how clinical trials work and how volunteers are acquired, but one has to wonder where the NIH actually got 45 people to be guinea pigs for the experimental pre-pandemic avian vaccine ? Inmates or prisoners, or perhaps homeless people ? Although I am a firm believer in annual flu shots, Ol’ Wulfgang would rather wait until the real deal emerges before getting stuck with an experimental flu vaccine. I shake enough as it is.

My final comment relates to the ProMed article on the number of H5N1 infected provinces in Vietnam. I am also wondering – why are there no reports of infected poultry flocks coming out of Vietnam’s direct bordering neighbors, Cambodia, Laos and China ?

Could it be that the H5N1 virus has now evolved to the point that it recognizes geographical boundaries ? Absolutely amazing.



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