Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January 7 Flu Update

China says its latest outbreak is under control.

Helen Branswell on the story about MIT researchers discovering why bird flu infects some people and not others.

"I think it's a significant piece of the puzzle in terms of what may be going on in the upper respiratory tract versus the lower with the avian-like viruses," said Michael Perdue, deputy director of the influenza and emerging diseases program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Perdue was not involved in the research.

Effect Measure also blogs this story. As usual, tempering some media headlines with a little realism.

This is fascinating work but we are still at the beginning. It has implications for how research is carried out in the future, for example, how glycan microarrays are characterized and populated. But the headline that we now "know" the secret to what determines human infection is perhaps an exaggeration. What we now know is that the linkage itself may not be that important and we are further directed to some very fruitful areas to look to see what is important.

Nepal recognizes bird flu risk.

Zoo is Bangladesh has bird flu alert.

Dr. Capua, an Italian vet who has had a lead in flu efforts and the Indonesian situation wins an award from Scientific American.

Apparently there is progress on a milk based vaccine.


At 6:38 PM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


My interpretation of Revere’s EM and Helen Branswell articles is that much more research needs to be completed, especially on “non-human” H5N1 infections, before any real beneficial results and understanding of influenza genetic or age-related susceptibility can be achieved. It appears to me the MIT research so far, although note worthy, has confined itself to “umbrella shaped” bird receptors and “cone shaped” human receptors and upper human respiratory tracts – why not run the traps to determine porcine, mice, ferret, horse, feline, insect and aquatic receptor susceptibility ? I wonder why we are confining our experimental biochemistry thinking and assay databases to only avian and human H5N1 infections to date? I am guessing that these alternate suspect hosts also have similar cells and the similar chemical type of glycan sugar chains, sialic and amino acids, protein compositions and “N” and “H” linkages and carbon associations. I would also think that they have similar “upper and lower” respiratory virus docking questions. Just wondering all of this, of course, from a lay person’s point of view.

Apparently in the world of influenza virology, “one size cell receptor does not fit all”, as Revere explains. Maybe receptor cells in animal, aquatic and insect hosts are all about as different as a the makeup and appearance of a Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, Porsche, BMW, KIA, and Volkswagon are. But then maybe, different hosts and their cells all have the similar predictable binding traits and characteristics when it comes to influenza viruses. This information would be nice to know if I were a scientist.

Another thing I am wondering is why MIT is not apparently involving leveraging off of their prestigious Space Nanotechnology Laboratory (SNL) or their Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) in their influenza research. Heck, I would think it would be quite easy to get funding from the NIH for this – they didn’t even spend over a $ Billion of their 2007 HHS budget. The size of nanomaterials are similar to that of most biological molecules and can be extremely useful for both in vivo and in vitro biomedical research and applications. For example, magnetic nanoparticles can be used to label specific molecules, structures of microorganisms, or even used for analysis of nucleic acids which are translated and converted into electronic signatures with represent strings of nucleotides.

For right now – I think I’m content with my limited understanding of Revere’s EM article, and with just the two simple words that we always see on television…

“Size matters”. (when it comes to bird flu)



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