Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Avian flu in perspective: New England Journal article reviews ’spectacular’ findings

24.11.2005


Saint Louis University influenza researcher comments in Nov. 24 issue



An article by Robert Belshe, M.D., of Saint Louis University School of Medicine in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine reviews recent "spectacular achievements of contemporary molecular biology" that hold great importance as the world prepares for a possible flu pandemic.

These achievements, including a recent genetic sequencing and recreation of the virus from the 1918 flu pandemic, "may enable us to track viruses years before they develop the capacity to replicate with high efficiency in humans," Belshe writes.


The new knowledge of the genetic sequences of influenza viruses that predate the 1918 epidemic will be "extremely helpful in determining the events that may lead to the adaptation of avian viruses to humans before the occurrence of pandemic influenza."

And as the virus continues to adapt, scientists now know what to look for. Belshe said scientists should conduct worldwide surveillance to monitor this adaptation process.

"It gives us some reassurance that by continuing to monitor the current virus in birds, we can get a sense as to when it’ll be an efficient virus," Belshe says. "We may have some time to develop new vaccines and better therapies."

Belshe reviews recent articles in Science and Nature as part of his perspective article "The Origins of Pandemic Influenza â€" Lessons from the 1918 Virus."

The lead author of the research in Nature was Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, and the research in Science was led by Terrence Tumpey, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"These recent research findings involving avian flu are startling, and they tell us that there are at least two mechanisms by which a pandemic influenza epidemic could emerge," Belshe says. "This research provides critically important insight into the origin of pandemic influenza."

Both mechanisms described in the articles were observed during worldwide pandemics of the 20th century. Scientists now conclude that the prospect of a new worldwide pandemic during the 21st century could involve either of two possibilities:

  • A direct spread of an entirely avian virus from birds to humans. This is what happened during the 1918 Spanish flu, the deadliest of last century’s three pandemics.
  • A "reassortment" virus that mixes bird flu with already circulating human influenza strains to create a new strain. This was the case during the 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic and the 1957 Asia flu pandemic. (Most of the flu strains of today are genetically related to the 1968 outbreak, which as a reassortment virus is genetically related to both the 1957 and 1918 viruses.)

Belshe said the question of the moment involves which mechanism a future pandemic could involve. "Are we going to see an event like 1918, an avian virus adapting to man, or will it be an event like 1957 or 1968, where an avian virus contributes some genetic material by mixing in with a current strain of the human virus?" Belshe says. "We don’t know what will happen or when it will happen, but we know it will happen."

And although it can’t be said for sure whether the current avian flu virus can adapt readily to the point where human-to-human transmission is possible, the recent research findings do provide some clues as to what genetic changes are necessary for such an event to occur. In fact, several additional genetic changes must occur in the currently circulating bird flu viruses before these viruses will begin to spread efficiently from person to person and this can be monitored closely by scientists.

"Taubenberger estimated that based upon the rate of evolution, the 1918 epidemic had circulated in man since 1900," Belshe says. "So it took a while to become highly efficient as a pandemic virus."

A copy of the full article can be found in the Nov. 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (2209-2211).

Belshe is director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. He has conducted research related to influenza for more than two decades, and he has previously published articles in the New England Journal of Medicine on the influenza anti-viral Tamiflu, on the nasal spray influenza vaccine FluMist, and last fall on intradermal administration of flu vaccinations. He has authored dozens of papers on influenza that have been covered in various scholarly journals, including a 1998 commentary in The Lancet article that warned of a coming global flu pandemic and of the necessity of preparing for one.

Joe Muehlenkamp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.slu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>