Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New model may help scientists better predict and prevent influenza outbreaks

30.10.2009
Each year, the influenza virus evolves. And each year, public health officials try to predict what the new strain will be and how it will affect the population in order to best combat it.

A new study by an international team of researchers, led by assistant professor Andrew W. Park, who holds a joint appointment in the University of Georgia Odum School of Ecology and in the College of Veterinary Medicine, may make their task a little easier.

The study breaks ground by working across scales and linking sub-molecular changes in the influenza virus to the likelihood of influenza outbreaks. The paper, published in the Oct. 30 edition of the journal Science, shows the relationship between the evolution of the virus and immunization rates needed to prevent an outbreak in the population.

Park explained that these findings can help inform efforts to prevent future outbreaks. “Public health officials will be able to assess the usefulness of a vaccine based upon its relationship to the current influenza strain and the population’s immunity level,” he said.

Through previous vaccinations or infections with earlier strains of the influenza virus, many individuals already have some level of immunity, Park noted. The influenza virus is continually evolving, however. By substituting different amino acids at key molecular points, the virus increases its chances of evading the immune system’s defenses, allowing it to reproduce and spread.

As the number of amino acid differences between a new strain and the strain an individual was vaccinated against increases, the likelihood of becoming infected increases, Park said, as does the likelihood of becoming infectious and the length of time they will remain infectious. These factors combine to increase the chance of an outbreak in a population.

Working with equine influenza, the research team looked at the likelihood of an influenza outbreak in a population that had all been vaccinated with the same strain of the virus. They found that outbreaks began occurring when there were two or more amino acid differences and that the size of the outbreak increased with the number of amino acid differences. They also found that large outbreaks were more likely to occur if the virus and the vaccine were from different antigenic clusters – meaning that a host's immune system perceives the two strains as different. Comparing these results with an earlier human influenza study revealed similar trends.

Another key factor in determining the risk of an outbreak in real populations, however, is the individual variation of immunity in the population. Because the virus keeps changing, so do the vaccines used against it. This causes the immunity of the population to be heterogeneous – some individuals have been infected with or vaccinated against last year’s influenza strain, some against strains from previous years, and some have no immunity at all. Park and his colleagues found that the degree of variability of immunity in the population plays a crucial role in determining the risk of an outbreak.

Park added that in measuring for the first time how the difference between the population’s immunity status and a new virus strain influences the risk of an epidemic, the team has taken a critical step toward linking these relationships with the dynamics of epidemics, not just for influenza but for a wide range of infectious diseases.

The UGA Odum School of Ecology is the world’s first stand-alone school of ecology. With roots that date back to the 1950s, the Odum School of Ecology offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certification programs. Founder Eugene P. Odum is recognized internationally as a pioneer of ecosystem ecology. For more information, see http://www.ecology.uga.edu.

The UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, founded in 1946, is dedicated to training future veterinarians, providing services to animal owners and veterinarians, and conducting research to improve the health of animals as well as people. The College enrolls 102 students each fall out of 550 who apply. It has more than 145 faculty members. For more information, see http://www.vet.uga.edu/.

Beth Gavrilles | University of Georgia
Further information:
http://www.uga.edu
http://www.vet.uga.edu/
http://www.ecology.uga.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin

nachricht Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>