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The Pandemic - H1N1 Virus and Vaccine Development & Science Fact Thread

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posted on May, 24 2009 @ 07:45 AM
New 3-D Structural Model Of Critical H1N1 Protein Developed

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2009) — In just two weeks from the time the first patient virus samples were made available, Singapore scientists report an evolutionary analysis of a critical protein produced by the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus strain.

In the Biology Direct journal's May 20th issue, Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, Ph.D., and his team of scientists at the Bioinformatics Institute (BII), one of the research institutes at Singapore's Biopolis, also demonstrated the use of a computational 3-dimensional (3D) structural model of the protein, neuraminidase.

With the 3D model, Dr. Maurer-Stroh and his team were able to map the regions of the protein that have mutated and determine whether drugs and vaccines that target specific areas of the protein were effective. Among their findings:

a. neuraminidase structure of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus has undergone extensive surface mutations compared to closely related strains such as the H5N1 avian flu virus or other H1N1 strains including the 1918 Spanish flu;

b.neuraminidase of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus strain is more similar to the H5N1 avian flu than to the historic 1918 H1N1 strain (Spanish flu);

c. current mutations of the virus have rendered previous flu vaccinations directed against neuraminidase less effective; and

d. commercial drugs, namely Tamiflu® and Relenza®, are still effective in treating the current H1N1 virus.

With the Biology Direct journal paper, the Singapore scientists have become the first to demonstrate how bioinformatics and computational biology can contribute towards managing the H1N1 influenza A virus.

Cool! a 3D model of the H1N1 virus!

What's not so cool is this:

"neuraminidase of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus strain is more similar to the H5N1 avian flu than to the historic 1918 H1N1 strain (Spanish flu);"

posted on May, 24 2009 @ 07:55 AM
New Vaccine Strategy Might Offer Protection Against Pandemic Influenza Strains

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2009) — A novel vaccine strategy using virus-like particles (VLPs) could provide stronger and longer-lasting influenza vaccines with a significantly shorter development and production time than current ones, allowing public health authorities to react more quickly in the event of a potential pandemic.

Ted Ross, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Vaccine Research, will present his laboratory's latest data on the efficacy of VLP vaccines for potential pandemic strains, such as H5N1 and 1918 influenza, May 18 at the 109th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Philadelphia.

Virus-like particles look just like a live virus, but they are hollow shells without a genome inside and they cannot reproduce," Ross explained. "Because they look like the virus, they evoke a more robust immune response against the real thing."

Ross and his colleagues have already made VLP vaccines that have been tested in early clinical trials and appear to provide complete protection against both the H5N1 avian influenza virus and the 1918 Spanish influenza virus.

"There is a debate in the influenza community about priming the human population for potential pandemic strains such as H5N1 or 1918," Ross said. "Some researchers advocate adding these strains to the annual flu vaccine. They might not match the next pandemic flu strain exactly, but could provide some of protection."

Others contend that it might be premature, as well as costly, to vaccinate people against a virus that may never emerge, he said.

It's clear that the scientists are a little freaked out by the H1N1 virus and its possibilities to recombine with H5N1 avian influenza virus, and they have all reasons for doing so, until we know more about the coming evolution of the H1N1 virus!

posted on May, 24 2009 @ 08:08 AM
Face Protection Effective In Preventing The Spread Of Influenza, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 22, 2009) — A new article in the journal Risk Analysis assessed various ways in which aerosol transmission of the flu, a central mode of diffusion which involves breathing droplets in the air, can be reduced. Results show that face protection is a key infection control measure for influenza and can thus affect how people should try to protect themselves from the swine flu.

Lawrence M. Wein, Ph.D., and Michael P. Atkinson of Stanford University constructed a mathematical model of aerosol transmission of the flu to explore infection control measures in the home.

Their model predicted that the use of face protection including N95 respirators (these fit tight around the face and are often worn by construction workers) and surgical masks (these fit looser around the face and are often worn by dental hygienists) are effective in preventing the flu. The filters in surgical masks keep out 98 percent of the virus. Also, only 30 percent of the benefits of the respirators and masks are achieved if they are used only after an infected person develops symptoms.

"Our research aids in the understanding of the efficacy of infection control measures for influenza, and provides a framework about the routes of transmission," the authors conclude.

This timely article has the potential to impact current efforts and recommendations to control the so-called swine flu by international, national and local governments in perspective.

Yeah! It could never hurt to stock up on some good 3M masks with particle filter - N100 would be the one's I would buy!

It's better than nothing when and if you are going to be exposed to droplets in the air of the H1N1 virus.

If and when I need to move myself from place A to place B in an emergency later on, I'll now play it safe and keep a 10 pack of N100 masks at home - ready to use.

But that's just me! and my opinion!

posted on May, 25 2009 @ 07:16 AM
Sanofi Pasteur wins $190 million order from US government to make swine-flu vaccine

4:03 AM PDT, May 25, 2009
PARIS (AP) — Sanofi Pasteur, the world's largest vaccine maker, said Monday it has won a $190 million order from the United States government to make a swine flu vaccine.

The company, a unit of French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis SA, said in a statement that it is "the first of what is expected to be a series of orders" from the U.S. for a vaccine to help protect against the new A(H1N1) virus, commonly called swine flu.

Sanofi Pasteur, which operates influenza vaccine production facilities at Swiftwater, Pa. in the U.S. and in Val de Reuil in France, said it is also talking to other governments about the vaccine needs.

The company said it is awaiting receipt of the seed virus to be used in vaccine production from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and could begin commercial production in June, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has certified the working seed.

Sanofi-Aventis SA got a $190 million deal from the U.S

And this is only for one of the companies producing the vaccine - talk about big business for these pharma producing giants!

Commercial production could begin in June!

posted on May, 25 2009 @ 07:19 AM

Originally posted by Chevalerous
Since there is confusion about whether we are in a pandemic or not, ....

I'm not confused at all. I know we are.
So do TPTB .. but they are denying it in order 'not to cause panic'.

For some info from Jim Marrs on this - read this thread .
It'll back up some of what has been said on this thread.

posted on May, 25 2009 @ 10:02 AM

Originally posted by FlyersFan

Originally posted by Chevalerous
Since there is confusion about whether we are in a pandemic or not, ....

I'm not confused at all. I know we are.
So do TPTB .. but they are denying it in order 'not to cause panic'.

For some info from Jim Marrs on this - read this thread .
It'll back up some of what has been said on this thread.

Thanks FlyersFan!

Yeah I changed the Topic Title of this thread yesterday with help from the mods.

The original Topic title was:

"We are already in a Pandemic -WHO's pandemic scale is somewhat irrelevant. Science Fact Thread."

I posted this thread on 3-5-2009 because I was surprised to see all arguments on the update threads, whether we were in a Pandemic or not!

But you and me and some others had the brains to see early on, the game that WHO was playing! - changing the criteria and the definition as they went along - on the fly!

And now we know the reason for this was, protecting the miserable world economy!

I'll check out that Marrs thread!

Thanks F.F

posted on May, 25 2009 @ 10:46 AM
Can airport technology halt a pandemic?

WHEN aviation officials chose Mexico City for a meeting to discuss their response to pandemic outbreaks, they could scarcely have predicted swine flu would intervene. "The irony was amazing," says Tony Evans of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Montreal, Canada. "The meeting will probably go ahead in June unless we get another wave of H1N1."

Future pandemics will almost certainly be spread via air travel, with flights capable of carrying a pathogen across the world in hours. The UN's Convention on International Civil Aviation requires nations to "prevent the spread of communicable diseases by means of air navigation". That is easier said than done, especially in poorer regions.

Enter CAPSCA - the Cooperative Arrangement for the Prevention of the Spread of Communicable diseases by Air travel. CAPSCA aims to help airports in developing nations prepare for a pandemic, and its schemes are now getting off the ground in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Africa.

"When an aircraft arrives with a suspected disease case on board, CAPSCA will make sure you've thought about where you are going to park the plane, how you will deal with the luggage and how are you going to keep in touch with the passengers that haven't got any symptoms," Evans says. You also have to work out which people on the plane are most likely to be infected and whether they need prophylactic treatment or admission to hospital. How will you protect customs officers? Careful planning is crucial and CAPSCA will promote that, Evans explains.

At present these plans rely on aircrew identifying any sick passengers by their symptoms. It would be far better to have an automatic system that can detect infected people as they pass through a gate or wander around an airport, but there is still no reliable technology to do that.

Well that "irony" was amusing!

And what about this: "Future pandemics will almost certainly be spread via air travel"


We are already in a Pandemic! and it's already spreading around the world through air travel!

Some people!

posted on May, 25 2009 @ 11:39 AM
Computer Simulation Captures Immune Response To Flu

Researchers have successfully tested first the first time a computer simulation of major portions of the body's immune reaction to influenza type A, with implications for treatment design and preparation ahead of future pandemics, according to work accepted for publication, and posted online, by the Journal of Virology. The new "global" flu model is built out of preexisting, smaller-scale models that capture in mathematical equations millions of simulated interactions between virtual immune cells and viruses.

Mathematical models and computer simulations have been used to understand viral infections and immune response to those infections, including influenza type A viruses, which can cause severe human disease. Type A flu viruses are classified by differing versions of key proteins, hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N), on their outer surfaces that attract attention by the human immune system, but that are always changing. Thus, some forms of both seasonal flu and swine flu are designated H1N1 because of their related, but differing surface proteins. The "bird flu" virus that emerged in 2004 is designated as H5N1. The newest, much-publicized strain of H1N1 swine flu is believed to have caused deaths and hospitalizations because victims' immune systems did not recognize the latest variations in these surface proteins. Each year, seasonal flu causes approximately 36,000 deaths in this country for the same reason.

A team of immunologists, mathematical modelers, statisticians and software developers created the new model over three years within the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The project was led by Hulin Wu, Ph.D., principal investigator of the project, director of the Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling (CBIM) and division chief of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and by Martin S. Zand, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of the CBIM. The work was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

"High-speed, accurate computer simulation tools are urgently needed to dissect the relative importance of each attribute of viral strains in their ability to cause disease, and the contribution of each part of the immune system in a successful counterattack," said Zand. "Real world experiments simply cannot be executed fast enough to investigate so many complex surprises, and we must keep pace with viral evolution to reduce loss of life."

Computer simulation models are great tools to see the body's immune reaction to influenza type A.

[edit on 25-5-2009 by Chevalerous]

posted on May, 28 2009 @ 09:51 AM
Swine flu attention turns to the tropics

New flu strains are more likely to arise in equatorial countries, where influenza is present the year round and surveillance is poor.

With the influenza season over in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, and just getting under way on the other side of the world, scientists are watching the A(H1N1) swine flu virus to see where it goes next and whether it will reassort with other flu viruses, or mutate, to cause more severe disease or acquire resistance to antiviral drugs.

Some researchers are warning, however, that such changes might be more likely to occur not in the northern or southern temperate zones where flu is seasonal, but in the narrow, often-overlooked belt of tropical countries where flu circulates all year round.

"We should be getting the message across that it is probably in the tropical countries, more than in the Southern Hemisphere, that this virus will be going through some reassortment contortions in the coming months," says Ken Shortridge, a veteran of flu research in China and southeast Asia, now retired in New Zealand.

Outbreaks of the new virus have so far been largely confined to the Northern Hemisphere, and public-health officials are crossing their fingers that as summer approaches outbreaks may wane — although that is far from a given. That would buy time for a new vaccine to become available just before the expected wave of new cases next winter.

European Union countries have so far succeeded in holding the virus at bay by intensively tracking the first cases imported from abroad, and treating those patients and their contacts with antiviral drugs. Many low-income countries in the south will not have the resources for such a strategy, says Jeremy Farrar, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. "This inevitably means that when this highly transmissible virus arrives in a densely populated country with more limited resources, it will spread rapidly and many, many thousands of people will be infected," he says.

Scientists have been frustrated by their inability to predict the behaviour of flu viruses, although they are more prepared now for a pandemic than ever before. When the last flu pandemic occurred, in 1968, researchers did not have the web or the molecular-biological and genomic tools to track the disease. "It's the first time in history that we have been able to watch a potentially pandemic virus unfold in advance of a pandemic," says Shortridge. "This is a magnificent advance, but we are still feeling our way."

Yeah I'm worried about the tropical countries and the more poor countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

And I agree that we have to unite here in the richer countries to help them if the pandemic gets a lot worse down there this coming months.

I could personally donate $50 to some organisation if I knew the money comes into the right hands, buying vaccine etc.

Maybe the Red-Cross organisation or similar?

posted on Jun, 1 2009 @ 07:30 AM
New swine flu cases point to invisible pandemic

Hospitals in Greece have identified H1N1 swine flu in two students who had no contact with known cases of the virus and had not been in countries with widespread infection. The infections were discovered even though the students should not have been tested for swine flu under European rules. The Greek authorities say this shows the rules must change.

Indeed, an investigation by New Scientist earlier this month showed that the EU rules would exclude exactly such cases and could make H1N1 appear much less widespread in Europe than it is.

Takis Panagiotopoulos of the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Athens and colleagues reported on 28 May in Eurosurveillance, a weekly bulletin published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden, that two Greek men returning home from Scotland had tested positive this week for H1N1 swine flu.

The two go to university in Edinburgh and had attended term-end parties at the end of last week. Both developed coughs and fevers at the weekend before flying back to Greece, where one went to hospital in Athens on Tuesday.

"The examining physician decided to take a pharyngeal swab, which was tested at the National Influenza Reference Laboratory for Southern Greece, although the patient did not meet the European Union and national criteria for the new influenza A (H1N1) testing," the team reports.

The swab was tested with a kit for H1N1 distributed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was positive for swine flu. The student in Athens warned the second student, who was now in Thesaloniki. He also tested positive. Both cases were mild.

Contacts of the two in Greece and Scotland and on the flights are being traced.

The Greek cases are "community acquired", meaning they have no contacts with known cases or countries with swine flu. The ECDC guidelines adopted by most EU countries, including Greece, recommend testing for H1N1 only when people have such contacts, excluding community acquired cases.

"It is of concern that with the present EU [testing criteria] we are by definition going to miss cases infected locally in the event of established community transmission," the Greek team warns. "It is probably necessary to modify the present EU definition … to also include clusters of patients with influenza-like illness, irrespective of travel history," they say, especially as the tourist season is getting under way.

Here we were complaining about the test procedure in the USA - and now it turns out that the authorities in Europe seems to take the lead in keeping their heads deep down in the sand! - nothing to see here, move along attitude!

This is insane EU - what the heck is going on here?

Meanwhile in Australia! the Aussis seems to get it straight and are doing the right thing! - kudos to the Aussis!

broadens testing for swine flu

EUROPE might baulk at the measures needed to find out how far swine flu has spread - not so Australia. The country reported its first cases of community-acquired swine flu last week, just as its flu season is beginning.

Most European countries are only testing people who have travelled to affected countries or come into contact with a person known to have swine flu, which means community-acquired infections are virtually guaranteed to go unnoticed. This could mean swine flu is spreading undetected in Europe.

In contrast, on Saturday, Australia's Chief Medical Officer Jim Bishop announced that anyone with a high fever and flu symptoms would be tested for swine flu regardless of their travel history. "We've started to look for cases more aggressively," says David Smith, director of PathWest Laboratories in Perth.

He hopes the strategy will "spread the load over a longer time, so that the health system can cope more easily". Europe may feel it has to follow suit.

posted on Jun, 1 2009 @ 08:02 AM
Timeline: Swine flu

Nature's timeline of the swine flu

After 20th of April the reporting of the flu started to take off here on ATS.

A new strain of swine flu - influenze A (H1N1) - is spreading around the globe. This timeline will be continually updated with key dates, drawing on authoritative information from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources. For more on the situation see the Nature News swine flu special, and read updates on The Great Beyond blog.

18 March 2009: Federal District of Mexico begins to pick up cases of swine flu.

28 March 2009: Earliest onset date of swine flu reaching the United States, according to the CDC.

21 April 2009: CDC laboratories confirm two cases in California. Three additional cases confirmed the next day, with two more in Texas added the day after.

23 April 2009: Officials issue orders to close schools in Mexico City, beginning a process of limiting public crowds. Three major soccer [futbol] games around Mexico City close stadium gates to all fans the weekend of April 25-26, with games broadcast on television. Stadium closures continue through May 2-3.

25 April 2009: WHO director-general, Margaret Chan calls the flu problem "a public health emergency of international concern ".

27 April 2009: Canada reports six cases of swine flu and Spain reports one. In the United States 40 people have flu confirmed. In Mexico 26 cases are confirmed, with 7 deaths resulting. Estimates for the true number of deaths hover around 80.

The WHO raises pandemic alert level to 4 having confirmed human-to-human transmission able to cause 'community-level outbreaks'. "Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion," says the organisation.

28 April 2009: Seven countries are now reporting confirmed cases of H1N1 swine flu: the United States, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Israel and Spain.

29 April 2009: The WHO raises pandemic level alert to phase 5, "a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent". First swine-flu death outside Mexico reported as a baby dies in Texas. Germany joins European countries with H1N1 and confirms three swine flu cases. The WHO confirms 7 more cases in Canada, bringing the total number there to 13

30 April 2009: Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands join the WHO list of countries with confirmed cases. The agency also announces it will refer to the virus not as swine flu but as influenza A(H1N1).

1 May 2009: As of this morning, 331 cases of H1N1 have been reported in 11 countries. According to the WHO, the worst outbreaks are still in Mexico (156 cases and nine deaths) and the United States (109 cases and one death).

2 May 2009: China (Hong Kong special administrative region), Costa Rica, Denmark, France, and the Republic of Korea join the list. Total cases reported to the WHO are now at 658 in 16 countries.

Canadian authorities announce that H1N1 has been detected in a swine herd in Alberta. The pigs likely caught the virus from a Canadian who had recently visited Mexico, making this the first known case of human-to-animal transmission.

3 May 2009: Ireland and Italy each report one case. 898 cases are now reported.

4 May 2009: Colombia joins the club. There are now 985 cases in 20 countries. Mexico is up to 25 deaths, but officials there say the disease seems to be on the decline.

5 May 2009: Mexico's H1N1 shutdown should begin to ease tomorrow, with restaurants and cafes set to reopen.

The latest WHO figures say the virus has now spread to 21 countries. Mexico has reported 590 cases and 25 deaths while the United States has reported 286 cases and one death.

However, the Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed a second person has died in the United States. The DSHS says a woman with "chronic underlying health conditions" died earlier this week.

The following countries have reported cases but no deaths: Austria, Canada, China (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), Costa Rica, Colombia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

6 May 2009: WHO confirms swine flu cases in Sweden and Guatemala.

7 May 2009: Worldwide confirmed cases are now at 2,371.

8 May 2009: Brazil reports four cases, bringing the number of affected countries to 25. Deaths now stand at 44 worldwide, with 2,500 confirmed cases. Most newly reported cases in new areas, the WHO says, come from travelers returning from affected areas. The CDC reports that hospitalization rates in the US are coming down, to 3.5%, as testing expands to include milder cases.

The Harvard School of Public Health releases a poll in which 83% of Americans polled say they are satisfied with the way public health officials have managed the outbreak. Still, 48% of parents with children in school think they or a family member will come down with H1N1 in the next year.

11 May 2009: The WHO has confirmed swine flu deaths in Canada and Costa Rica, bringing the total number of countries where fatalities have occurred to four.

Mexico has reported 48 deaths and the United States three. Worldwide, 30 countries have officially reported 4694 cases.

A modeling study in Science suggests that the virus spreads at a rate comparable to that of previous influenza pandemics.

12 May 2009: The CDC notes that it is seeing some severe complications in cases of H1N1 in pregnant women, including one death in the US.

13 May 2009: As of this morning, 33 countries have reported 5,728 cases of H1N1 to the WHO.

18 May 2009: The day it confirmed that 8,829 H1N1 cases have been reported in 40 countries, the WHO has cautioned against complacency.

"This virus may have given us a grace period, but we do not know how long this grace period will last," said Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. "No one can say whether this is just the calm before the storm."

However the pandemic alert level is still at five today, one level below a full pandemic.

posted on Jun, 1 2009 @ 08:53 AM
UK Compulsory Vaccination Imminent - Article, May 29 2009.

Contrary to assurances given by the UK Government to leading politicians, fears earlier this year that the Government were moving to make the vaccination schedule compulsory for British citizens [including children] without reference to Parliament, and without public debate seem to be being borne out.

The Health Protection (Vaccination) Regulations 2009
The UK Government appears to have placed control of UK vaccination programmes from 1 April 2009, in practical effect, into the hands of the drug industry and introduced what is potentially a compulsory vaccination law without Parliamentary debate under The Health Protection (Vaccination) Regulations 2009.

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 10:06 AM
Health workers may flee in pandemic panic

HEALTHCARE workers will desert their posts in droves in a pandemic, unless the safety and psychological issues they face are addressed. So say surveys of doctors, nurses and other staff, such as lab techs, secretaries and porters, from around the world.

The worst predictions are for the UK, where as few as 15 per cent of workers would show up in a pandemic (BMC Public Health, DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-9-142).

Elsewhere, the figures are better but still worrying. Two Australian surveys suggest that 60 to 80 per cent of workers would go to work (BMC Health Services Research, DOI: 10.1186/1472-6963-9-30; The Medical Journal of Australia, vol 187, p 676). Studies in Hong Kong and the US predict an 85 and 50 per cent turnout respectively.

Existing pandemic plans tend to focus on making sure workers are able to work, by providing transport or training for new roles. But "our study found that willingness to work is the most important factor in absenteeism", says Sarah Damery of the University of Birmingham, UK.

Offering more money to ancillary staff would do little to encourage them to work, says Charlene Irvin of St John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, Michigan.

Well! In a worst case scenario, I guess offering them more money doesn't matter! the staff would prefer to stay home with their families instead! - and I can't really blame them!

Maybe the Authorities have the right to force them to go to work?

Just do the swine flu tests

GREEK doctors and flu scientists are saying what New Scientist revealed two weeks ago: swine flu could be spreading round Europe undetected because people without known links to flu aren't being tested (see "Europe should test more broadly for swine flu").

Maybe countries worry that if they test, they'll be forced to use precious antiviral medicines on a mild strain. Maybe they just want this virus to spread quietly, so people will become immune to its successors. Maybe a basic understanding of epidemiology is lacking, though that seems unlikely.

But we know one thing: the only item of faith you need in science is that it's better to know than not to know. If Europe's leaders want everyone's trust - trust they will need if this virus really does go global - it should emulate Australia, and do the tests.

Yes! sadly I'm a little ashamed about the 'Modus Operandi' in the way we're handling the testing here in Europe.

They have their heads buried deep in the sand, and are hoping the problem will go away if they ignore it long enough!

A video about the flu from NewScientist:

[edit on 11-6-2009 by Chevalerous]

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 10:42 AM
Efforts To Quickly Develop Swine Flu Vaccine

ScienceDaily (June 4, 2009) — Scientists around the world are accelerating their efforts to develop a vaccine against the H1N1 influenza virus (Swine flu) as rapidly as possible, reports Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN). The need for such a vaccine received a strong impetus from the World Health Organization, which has issued a Phase 5 pandemic alert, a strong signal that the WHO believes a pandemic is imminent, according to the June 1 issue of Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

"It can take five or six months to come up with an entirely novel influenza vaccine," says John Sterling, Editor in Chief of GEN. "There is a great deal of hope that biotech and pharma companies might be able to have something ready sooner."

The Immune Response To Influenza Virus Isn't 'All Good'

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2009) — How infection with influenza virus makes an individual sensitive to pneumonia-causing bacterial infections is clinically important but not well understood. New research now indicates that key mediators of the antiviral immune response initiated by infection with influenza virus impair the ability of mice to mount an adequate immune response to subsequent pneumonia-causing bacterial infection. These data might provide a new avenue of research for those developing ways to combat pneumonia following infection with influenza virus.

Complications following infection with the virus that causes flu (influenza virus) are one of the top ten causes of death in the United States. Although infection with influenza virus can directly cause death, many deaths following infection with influenza virus occur because the individual develops pneumonia due to secondary infection with bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. How influenza makes individuals more sensitive to pneumonia-causing secondary bacterial infections is not well understood. However, Jane Deng and colleagues, at the University of California, Los Angeles, have now determined, through studies in mice, one mechanism by which influenza might sensitize individuals to secondary bacterial pneumonia.

Washing Hands Properly Helps Stop Spread Of Contagious Diseases

ScienceDaily (June 8, 2009) — We all know that coughs and sneezes spread diseases – and that we should wash our hands to prevent passing on nasty viruses and bacteria. But how many of us just flick our hands under a dribbling tap and think that will do? Now hopeless hand washers will be caught – not red-handed, but with glowing green fingers, by the Society for General Microbiology’s (SGM) good hand washing test.

A team from the SGM will be at the Cheltenham Science Festival demonstrating their hand washing training kit that uses a cream containing a harmless dye that glows green in ultraviolet light to show up shoddy hand washing.

“Under finger nails and the cracks between fingers are the usual sites which get missed, said SGM’s Dariel Burdass, “We put a blob of cream on people’s hands and send them away to wash them. When they come back they are often amazed at how much glowing green dye remains on their fingers – if the dye was a nasty microbe they would be standing a good chance of infecting themselves and passing it on to other people.

The team also use the glowing cream to show how viruses such as those that cause colds and flu can survive on hard surfaces and be spread from hand to hand. Just touching a doorknob that has had a little of the special cream applied to it, can make people’s fingers turn green under UV light – and then when they touch another person’s hand the green glow gets passed on.

“Although this is great fun for children as it has a real “yuk” factor,” Dariel continued, “It has a serious side too. The current TV adverts about swine flu stress that we should use a tissue when we sneeze to stop virus-laden droplets spreading over a wide area. Our hand washing test shows very clearly how viruses can spread from hand to hand and by touching contaminated surfaces”.

The message seems to be hitting home. One participant remarked, “I hadn’t realised the huge difference that washing my hands could make to the spread of colds. Next time I sneeze I won’t be wiping my hands down my jumper

Bird Flu Virus Remains Infectious Up To 600 Days In Municipal Landfills

Amid concerns about a pandemic of swine flu, researchers from Nebraska report for the first time that poultry carcasses infected with another threat — the "bird flu" virus — can remain infectious in municipal landfills for almost 2 years.

There you have it! Don't play in Municipal Landfills while you have the H1N1 flu! - Bird Flu Virus Remains Infectious Up To 600 Days In Municipal Landfills.

If you can't stay away from the fun and play at your local Municipal Landfill, at least wash your hands afterwards! - and don't touch/poke any dead birds!

And remember if you sneeze! don't just wipe the hands down the jumper! wash your hands!! - and don't forget! - try to keep away from Landfills with dead birds!

[edit on 11-6-2009 by Chevalerous]

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 10:56 AM
Avian influenza aided readiness for swine flu

Despite gains from threat of bird flu, pandemic preparedness is patchy.

With the World Health Organization discussing whether to declare, as Nature went to press, that a swine influenza pandemic has arrived, doctors, scientists and government officials say the enormous preparedness efforts of recent years have aided the world's response to the virus.

With the World Health Organization discussing whether to declare, as Nature went to press, that a swine influenza pandemic has arrived, doctors, scientists and government officials say the enormous preparedness efforts of recent years have aided the world's response to the virus.

"Clearly, the global preparedness for dealing with an influenza outbreak is much better now than it was five or six years ago," says virologist Malik Peiris of the University of Hong Kong.

But there have been some hiccups, due largely to the mismatch between the pandemic scenarios envisaged and the one that has arrived. Most nations had prepared for a pandemic sparked by the deadly A(H5N1) avian influenza virus, which kills up to 60% of those infected, but the A(H1N1) swine flu virus epidemic has been much less severe so far.

"Many nations built their plans around the idea that a pandemic strain would evolve in southeast Asia, that we would recognize it early, and that we would be able to contain it," says Eric Toner, a physician and preparedness analyst with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Biosecurity in Pennsylvania. "None of that turned out to be true."

Global pandemic planning efforts were ramped up after severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) swept through Asia in 2003, and the deadly H5N1 strain emerged in the same year. Local, national and international entities involved in flu response are now better coordinated, observers say.

That was evident with regard to the current situation, as officials — for instance, at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia — delivered open and consistent public messages about the seriousness and uncertainty of swine flu infections, says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association in Washington DC. That's in contrast to 2001, when some conflicting messages were delivered during the anthrax attacks.

In some countries, pandemic planning has led to stockpiled antiviral medication (see 'Preparedness by the numbers') being distributed to treat people with swine flu and their contacts. And the boost in research spending on epidemiological modelling and laboratory studies has enabled scientists to understand the H1N1 virus in record time, prepare to manufacture more vaccine faster, make more informed decisions on how to intervene in the virus's spread, and understand and share information on its genetic characteristics.

"We got an extraordinary laboratory understanding of this virus in a very short period of time, and that is the scientific 'wow' of what really happened in this outbreak," says Benjamin.

But the divergence between the anticipated pandemic and the one that has actually arrived has caused some glitches. For instance, the swine flu virus was not detected in time to contain it, as had been envisaged in some scenarios involving avian flu. "By the time the surveillance systems picked [the virus] up, it was already spreading way out of control, so the idea that one could trap it at the early stages was certainly not successful," says Peiris.

As swine flu began to spread throughout North America, which had hoped to have weeks of warning before a virus arrived from Asia, officials were initially confused about how to implement response plans. For instance, swine flu symptoms were milder and less severe than anticipated — impossible to distinguish from seasonal flu — and hospitals and health departments were swamped with people seeking tests for swine flu. A report issued on 4 June by the non-profit group Trust for America's Health, based in Washington DC, also noted that budget cuts at health departments at all levels slowed the US response, for instance by delaying testing.

"We have to consider what happened in the month of May as maybe a warning of what's coming, and we're working very hard this summer to have countermeasures available if the need for those arises" in the autumn, says Robin Robinson, principal deputy director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the US Health and Human Services department.

By contrast, Asia had expected an avian pandemic virus to arise in its backyard and was not fully prepared for swine flu from overseas. Most of the flu plans for the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "focus on how to cull chickens", says Hitoshi O#ani, a virologist with the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, Japan. "They may have some rapid containment plan, but containment is not possible for this current virus," he says.

Some Asian countries have applied containment measures that had little chance of working. China, for example, quarantined foreign travellers with fever symptoms and symptomless travellers in contact with those, a move not backed by scientific evidence, Toner says.

When the virus spread to Europe, some nations found they were not as ready as their thorough plans had led them to believe they were. For instance, Britain's Health Protection Agency, which was responsible for investigating the initial swine flu cases, did not at first have enough staff available to carry out the investigations, says Sandra Mounier-Jack, a health-policy analyst at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. And a planned telephone line that was to have been used to help distribute antivirals had not been set up when swine flu appeared.

And some long-standing challenges for Europe have still not been addressed, such as the piecemeal nature of the response. "We have 27 pandemic preparedness plans in different states of maturity

But perhaps the biggest global challenge is arriving now, as the Southern Hemisphere enters its flu season and swine flu threatens many of the least-ready countries.

On the whole, O#ani says, "this pandemic came too early. If we had had two more years, we would have been better prepared."

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 11:09 AM
Origins and evolutionary genomics of the 2009 swine-origin H1N1 influenza A epidemic

Gavin J. D. Smith Dhanasekaran Vijaykrishna Justin Bahl Samantha J. Lycett Michael Worobey Oliver G. Pybus Siu Kit Ma Chung Lam Cheung Jayna Raghwani Samir Bhatt J. S. Malik Peiris Yi Guan & Andrew Rambaut

Nature nfv, (2009) | doi:10.1038/nature08182.


A lot of information about the flu - work in progress - not final proof!

posted on Jun, 11 2009 @ 11:33 AM
New Accurate Diagnostic Test For Swine H1N1 Influenza Using RT-PCR Technology

ScienceDaily (June 9, 2009) — A new, easy-to-perform method for detecting both seasonal influenza A virus and the emerging H1N1 swine-derived influenza A virus in human clinical samples offers a fast, sensitive, and cost-effective diagnostic test that runs on standard laboratory equipment. This timely and broadly applicable molecular technique is described in a new article.

The recent emergence and global spread of a new swine flu virus highlights the urgent need for a reliable diagnostic test that can discriminate the H1N1 influenza virus from other strains and can be readily implemented in clinical testing laboratories. The molecular strategy described in the article in Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases is based on proven and widely used Real-Time, Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) technology.

The authors of the report describe the development of a new molecular probe that improves on the existing PCR assay used to diagnose seasonal influenza and enables detection of both the seasonal and H1N1 influenza A viruses in the same patient sample using a simple test protocol. Laetitia Ninove and colleagues from Université de la Méditerranée and Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (Marseille, France), Hôpitaux de Marseille, CEH Oxford (UK), and EHESP School of Public Health (Rennes, France) provide data to support the sensitivity and effectiveness of the SYBR Green RT-PCR one-step assay used for screening clinical samples to detect the presence of influenza A virus. In positive samples this is followed by the addition of two probes that are able to discriminate between the seasonal and swine H1N1 viruses to yield a definitive diagnosis.

Early, accurate identification of infected individuals will expedite appropriate antiviral therapy and enhance control and containment efforts. Furthermore, this new molecular test specifically amplifies and characterizes the viral genetic material, enabling rapid detection of new viral strains as they evolve. Using these genetic sequence data and making minor alterations to the PCR primers used in the assay, the test could be easily modified to detect newly emerging viral variants, including avian influenza strains.

"Early recognition of new influenza strains is vitally important for implementing effective control measures to limit spread. This cost-effective, comprehensive, and rapid test is a highly significant contribution to diagnostics that will greatly enhance our capacity to deal with future influenza outbreaks," says Stephen Higgs BSc, PhD, FRES, Editor-in-Chief of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, and Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and WHO Collaborating Center for Tropical Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

W00t! - hopefully a new more Accurate Diagnostic Test For Swine H1N1 Influenza using Real-Time, Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) technology - RT-PCR Technology.

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