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View Diary: Pandemic Flu Preparation and the Role of Internet Communities (91 comments)

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  •  here's a followup to that article linked above (6+ / 0-)

    from Effect Measure (public health blog):

    Paper on mutation that enhances infection of upper airways

    This is pretty scary sounding but it isn't new scary sounding. Kawaoka confirmed and filled in the picture about a mutation we already knew about, which is why he looked at it more closely in this paper.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Oct 07, 2007 at 05:53:42 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  I posted about this yesterday... (4+ / 0-)

      on DarkSyde's Science thread, here.
      And wrote about it on my blog the other day, since I use a pandemic flu (not H5N1) as the basis for a novel set in 2052.  It's a frightening development.

      Thanks for this longer piece!

      Read my SF novel for free. (-7.13/-7.33)

      by Shadan7 on Sun Oct 07, 2007 at 06:07:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ah, you've seen it, too (8+ / 0-)

      I caught that item on Effect Measure this afternoon.  

      For those who find themselves put off by the scientific verbiage of the PLoS paper the Reveres references, Growth of H5N1 Influenza A Viruses in the Upper Respiratory Tracts of Mice, I think the later interview with Dr. Kawaoka hits the high points rather nicely.

      "We have identified a specific change that could make bird flu grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans," said Kawaoka, who led the study.

      "The viruses that are circulating in Africa and Europe are the ones closest to becoming a human virus," Kawaoka said.

      Recent samples of virus taken from birds in Africa and Europe all carry the mutation, Kawaoka and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens.

      And later (emphasis mine),

      Birds usually have a body temperature of 41 degrees Celsius, and humans are 37 degrees Celsius. The human nose and throat, where flu viruses usually enter, is usually around 33 degrees Celsius.

      "So usually the bird flu doesn't grow well in the nose or throat of humans," Kawaoka said. This particular mutation allows H5N1 to live well in the cooler temperatures of the human upper respiratory tract.

      For those dKos readers who are still naive enough to think this is some media put-up job, that little fact is why people like Michael Osterholm and David Nabarro have been acting like they've had monkeys on their backs these last few years.

      And later ...

      "So the viruses circulating in Europe and Africa, they all have this mutation. So they are the ones that are closer to human-like flu," Kawaoka said.

      Luckily, they do not carry other mutations, he said.

      "Clearly there are more mutations that are needed. We don't know how many mutations are needed for them to become pandemic strains."

      Viruses do not change their genetic state on anybody's timetable.  Prediction of genetic change in viruses, as in anything else, is a complete imponderable.  All we know is that H5N1 hasn't gone airborne H2H yet.

      If it's CFR doesn't fall by about two orders of magnitude when and if that happens, we're going to be running up more fresh graveyards in this country than shopping malls.

      The lack of airborne H2H transmissibility today, and the absence of any practical means of predicting its arrival, is why

      • this thing isn't killing us off in industrial size job lots right now, and
      • we cannot predict when, or if, it'll start doing so.

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