Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientist Begins to Unravel What Makes Pandemic H1N1 Tick

18.11.2009
As the number of deaths related to the pandemic H1N1 virus, commonly known as “swine flu,” continues to rise, researchers have been scrambling to decipher its inner workings and explain why the incidence is lower than expected in older adults.

In a study available online and appearing in a future issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a UT Southwestern Medical Center researcher and his collaborators in California show that the molecular makeup of the current H1N1 flu strain is strikingly different from previous H1N1 strains as well as the normal seasonal flu, especially in structural parts of the virus normally recognized by the immune system.

Prior research has shown that an individual’s immune system is triggered to fight off pathogens such as influenza when specific components of the immune system – namely antibodies, B-cells and T cells – recognize parts of a virus known as epitopes. An individual’s ability to recognize those epitopes – spurred by past infections or vaccinations – helps prevent future infections. The challenge is that these epitopes vary among flu strains.

“We hypothesize that older people are somewhat protected because the epitopes present in flu strains before 1957 may be similar to those found in the current H1N1 strain, or at least similar enough that the immune system of the previously infected person recognizes the pathogen and knows to attack,” said Dr. Richard Scheuermann, professor of pathology and clinical sciences at UT Southwestern and a co-author of the paper. “Those born more recently have virtually no pre-existing immunity to this pandemic H1N1 strain because they have never been exposed to anything like it.”

Between April and mid-October, the current H1N1 virus sickened roughly 22 million Americans and contributed to or caused about 4,000 deaths, according to the figures recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The deaths included 540 children. The CDC report also estimates the total number of hospitalizations at around 98,000 nationwide, with children accounting for 36,000 of the total.

For this study, researchers examined whether epitopes present in the seasonal flu strains between 1988 and 2008 also are found in the existing H1N1 strain. They used data catalogued in the Immune Epitope Database as well as information from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data’s (GISAID) influenza genetic sequence databases. Dr. Scheuermann said his team also analyzed the virus’ genetic data using the NIH-sponsored Influenza Research Database (www.fludb.org), which he oversees at UT Southwestern.

The researchers found major genetic differences between the pandemic H1N1 strain and seasonal strains, potentially explaining why children and young adults are more susceptible to the H1N1 strain now circulating worldwide.

“Normally, older adults are generally more susceptible to pathogens like influenza, however, for the pandemic H1N1 strain this does not seem to be the case,” said Dr. Scheuermann, who is also a member of the Cancer Immunobiology Center at UT Southwestern. “The antibody epitopes, which provide protection against disease, for the pandemic H1N1 strain are virtually all different from those present in recent seasonal strains, so young people have no built-in protective mechanisms. We speculate that older adults may have been exposed to viruses in their youth in which the epitopes are more similar.”

At this point, he said, scientists must continue to be vigilant about tracking the pandemic H1N1 strain as it continues to evolve.

“H1N1 has not mutated in such a way as to make people sicker, but it could happen,” Dr. Scheuermann said. “It is important that individuals follow the public health guidelines regarding vaccination as the H1N1 vaccine becomes more widely available.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations include: pregnant women, individuals in contact with and caregivers of children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, all individuals from 6 months through 24 years of age, and individuals aged 25-64 with health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.

Researchers from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology in La Jolla, Calif., and the University of California San Diego also contributed to the work.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/infectiousdiseases to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for infectious diseases.

Kristen Holland Shear | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.utsouthwestern.org/infectiousdiseases

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Real-time feedback helps save energy and water
08.02.2017 | Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

nachricht The Great Unknown: Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents
19.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>