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review in The Lancet suggests that influenza vaccination of infants is useless. Each and every year at this time medical officials come out to remind us of our mortal danger. However, they advocate medical procedures that do little to nothing to protect us, but cost billions nonetheless. Dr. Eleanor McBean was an on-the-spot observer of the 1918 influenza epidemic and said, "As far as I could find out, the flu hit only the vaccinated. Those who had refused the shots escaped the flu. My family had refused all the vaccinations so we remained well all the time.
Just over thirty years ago, in 1976, the Centers for Disease Control investigated and confirmed that a severe influenza outbreak at Fort Dix, New Jersey, had been caused by the "swine flu" -- an influenza A-type virus. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare grew concerned that the United States might be about to see another large national flu pandemic, involving numbers of influenza deaths reminiscent of the flu pandemic of 1918. The federal government deemed it prudent to vaccinate all Americans. In October 1976, the National influenza Immunization Program officially began.
Only five types of influenza are known to infect humans: HI, H2, H3, and Nl or N2. The avian influenza viruses H4, H5, and H7 make birds sick but usually don't infect humans. That may be about to change, however. In addition to its technical designation, when the flu becomes a human infection, each of the different influenza A viruses is given a common name corresponding to the place of outbreak or origin: the Spanish flu of 1918 or the Hong Kong flu of 1968. The word "influenza" is derived from the Latin influentia, to influence.
The brouhaha erupted after Kawaoka's team at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tokyo reported in the 7 October issue of Nature that a normal human flu virus containing a gene for a coat protein from the 1918 flu strain is highly pathogenic to mice. An article in the New York Times noted that although the team began the studies in a stringent biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab in Canada, where workers wear "space suits," the University of Wisconsin's safety board approved moving the work to its own BSL-3 lab.
That set off alarm bells with some biosafety experts, including Karl M. Johnson, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) virologist now retired in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He and several others wrote to Promed, an Internet e-mail forum widely read in the infectious-disease community, arguing that the move to a BSL-3 was dangerous.
Johnson is partly assuaged. "I feel a bit better," he says, adding that BSL-3+ may be adequate for some experiments with engineered 1918 flu. But he still has reservations about, for instance, whether the vaccine would fully protect some individuals.
Other critics on Promed, however, such as Ronald Voorhees of the New Mexico Department of Health, argue that antiviral drugs may not eliminate the risk of a worker passing the virus to someone outside the lab, so a BSL-4 facility is needed. Biosafety expert Emmett Barkley of Howard Hughes Medical Institute suggests that if experts were polled, "half of them would call for [BSL-4]."
Part of the confusion stems from another set of federal guidelines, Biosafety in Biomedical and Microbiological Laboratories (BMBL). This manual says that flu viruses require only BSL-2 facilities, and there is no mention of 1918 flu or "enhanced" BSL-3, Johnson notes. The issue is important to resolve, as Kawaoka's is not the only group working on 1918-like flu viruses. A group led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City is doing so in a BSL-3+ facility at the CDC, and the University of Washington plans to study monkeys infected with modified 1918 flu strains in a BSL-3+ lab.
Even more controversial are planned experiments that would mix pathogenic avian flu strains, such as the H5N1 strain now circulating in Asia, with human flu viruses (Science, 30 July, p. 594). CDC scientists have opted for BSL-3+, but flu expert Robert Webster of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, says he would do these studies in a BSL-4 facility.
Special Report The 1918 flu virus is resurrected
Top of pageAbstractThe recreation of one of the deadliest diseases known could help us to prevent another pandemic. Or it might trigger one, say critics. Andreas von Bubnoff investigates whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
It is thought to have killed 50 million people, and yet scientists have brought it back to life. In this issue of Nature, scientists publish an analysis of the full genome sequence of the 1918 human influenza virus.
Kawaoka said the goal was to find out why the 1918 flu virus, known as the Spanish flu, was so deadly, killing up to 50 million people. Many of those who died were young adults who developed pneumonia from infections that penetrated deep into their lungs, something regular flu viruses normally don't do.
In 2004, Kawaoka identified a gene that enables the 1918 virus to latch on to cells in mice, but that wasn't enough to explain the germ's deadly power.
In the new study, he mixed a regular flu virus with the 1918 virus, gene by gene, testing the combinations in ferrets, which have responses to flu that mimic those in humans. One of the resulting viruses, containing a three-gene sequence that produces a virus-replication protein, infected the lower respiratory tracts of the animals, like the 1918 virus did in humans.
Kawaoka and other scientists, including Palese, previously reconstructed the 1918 virus from tissue samples extracted from victims of the flu, whose bodies were preserved in Alaska in the permafrost. They used a technique Kawaoka helped develop, called reverse genetics, that has also proven useful in searching for better flu vaccines.
Joining Kawaoka in the new research was lead author Tokiko Watanabe of UW-Madison; Shinji Watanabe, Jin Hyun Kim and Masato Hatta, also of UW-Madison; and Kyoko Shinya of Kobe University.
A bird flu virus known as H5N1 gained significant attention worldwide in 2005 and 2006 because of the threat of it causing a potential pandemic. Though fewer human cases have been reported recently, the virus continues to circulate.
Originally posted by crw2006 I laugh at all the "suckers" at work who line up for their free shot every October. They all end up feeling sick and lethargic for weeks.
Influenza Vaccine: Influenza vaccine was first introduced as a licensed product in the United States in 1944. Because of the rapid mutation of the virus, the effectiveness of a given vaccine lasts only a year or two. Each year researchers must investigate and, to some degree, anticipate changes in the virus in order to produce a vaccine that will be effective against a given strain. In most years, the mutation which occurs does not produce a strain which is drastically different from the strains in previous years. Occasionally, however, major changes occur in the configuration of the virus, requiring significant modifications in the vaccine. Significant changes occurred, for example, in the 1957 Asian Flu and the 1968 Hong Kong Flu.