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Offline Ylide

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Superflu?
« on: 09/03/2004 16:12:57 »
So I keep hearing that the Center for Disease Control is freaking out about the possible spread of a new strain of flu that's supposedly as virulent and nasty as the one in the 1920's that kill millions of people.  Has anyone heard of this?  Should I start buying surgical masks?  :P

Ralph Nader talked about it last time I saw him on TV and it was mentioned in one of my classes.



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Offline neilep

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #1 on: 09/03/2004 16:47:14 »
jay, I wonder if this is related to the bird flu that is a particular nasty beast that has killed a few people in asia.......they say it is particularly virulent, and is contracted mainly by chickens but has been passed on to the unfortunate few I've mentioned........Unless, of course, you're talking about a whole new flu, as I must admit, I have not heard abut any cases of the bird flu for a few weeks now.

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Offline tweener

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #2 on: 09/03/2004 21:21:03 »
I think the CDC is mostly freaking out because the flu is becoming a media circus and they don't have a "scientific" way of predicting the strain that will propagate next year.  That coupled with the limited manufacturing resoruces that require several months notice, and the fact that the vaccine mostly doesn't work, means the media has a field day.

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Offline chris

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #3 on: 10/03/2004 04:24:52 »
I'll address this one in detail later (because it is something I actually know about in some detail !), but in the interim, here is a link to a piece I wrote about it for radio. The transcript is under the "text transcript" section. Or you can listen to the audio if super keen.

Chris

Avian Flu story :
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/html/shows/2004.02.01.htm#4

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #4 on: 10/03/2004 07:55:33 »
No, this is most definately not bird flu.  It's a strain of human influenza.  Ralph Nader talked about it a couple weeks ago...it has NOT hit the media yet and the CDC has very little public announcement.  (with good reason!)  This is a strain similar to the one in the 1920's that killed several million people worldwide.  Granted, medicine is a lot better now than it was then, so the death rates are sure to be much lower.  



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Offline chris

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #5 on: 11/03/2004 00:46:32 »
Jason you have missed the point a bit - the pandemic strains of flu that have been associated with high mortality recurrently throughout the 20th century are avian derivatives that have acquired a human tropism. This was certainly the case in the 1950's and 1960's pandemics, and highly likely to be the case with the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 40 million.

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #6 on: 11/03/2004 02:37:30 »
maybe i should have read the link?  :P

Good info though, I didn't know that.  I'd be curious how the virus that normally can't code for proteins that will interact with our cellular transports can mutate to be able to do so.  Is there a piece of bird DNA it's incorporating that gives it just the correct protein coat to get into us?  



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Offline tweener

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #7 on: 11/03/2004 03:48:15 »
I believe the 1918 flu was a swine flu that originated here in the USA (probably Iowa - they're famous for pigs! :) ).

http://www.lubbockonline.com/news/032197/1918flu.htm


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Offline Donnah

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #8 on: 12/03/2004 00:14:47 »
I've had the flu many times, but in the early 1980's I got one of the killer strains.  I didn't die, but was wishing I had at the time.  A neighbor died from it.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #9 on: 14/03/2004 03:37:35 »
quote:
Originally posted by tweener

I believe the 1918 flu was a swine flu that originated here in the USA (probably Iowa - they're famous for pigs! :) ).


Pigs are seen as an intermediary, or go-between, spanning the species barrier between birds and humans. Flu started out as a virus of aquatic birds and, through mutation, jumped ship into other species including pigs and people. Over time each species has established its own specific strain of flu which travels the world, annually as a true pandemic. But occasionally a virus from one species mutates and gains the ability to affect animals of another species. Since pigs can harbour human flu, and can also acquire avian flu, they are the ideal molecular mixing pot where viruses from both species can mingle and swap genes to produce strains capable of infecting people but which also pack the devastating punch of the avian flu.

The reason that avian flu is so nasty is that our immune systems have never been educated (by past exposure) to recognise it. Our bodies have immunity built up over years to the 'standard' human flu strains, but we are immune-naive to avian flu giving it a huge headstart once it infects.

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Offline bezoar

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #10 on: 14/03/2004 14:03:23 »
Anyone ever read the book "The Coming Plague"?  We're long overdue for another strain of killer flu.  Then too, what happens if a "natural" mutated strain of smallpox suddenly rears it's head?  We're a nation of unimmunized people now.  And if we ever get a strain of methcillin resistant staph, which they say is only a matter or time before the methcillin resistant enterococcus trades DNA with staph and we have it, then I guess we're doomed.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #11 on: 17/03/2004 04:48:47 »
Bezoar

I think you mean vancomycin resistant staph. Methicillin (flucloxacillin) resistant Staph aureas (MRSA) is now (sadly) an all too common hospital bug, yet it remains reliably sensitive to vancomycin. Enterococci are already known to have acquired vancomycin resistant (and are called VREs). Scientists have demonstrated experimentally that the resistance profile can be transmitted (at least in vitro) from Enterococci to Staph.

There are, fortunately, still some other agents that can kill vanc-resistant Staphs, including teicoplanin, so the war is not over yet, but the position is serious.

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Offline Ylide

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #12 on: 17/03/2004 18:29:02 »
Aren't the really deadly strains of flu viral?  I thought bacterial flues could be controlled more easily, even the ones resistant to some antibiotics.

Funny you mention the transfer of resistance between bacteria, I'm in the process of doing research for a paper I'm writing on antibiotic resistance.  One of the upcoming techs I came across was interfering with the communication process between bacteria.  They use chemical signals to regulate each others, among other things,  reproduction, generation of toxins, and transfer of plasmids.  For those that don't know, plasmids are little rings of genetic information that can be transferred between bacteria...this is how antibiotic resistance is spread to bacteria that aren't progeny of the resistant parent bacterium.  Anyway, they're looking into ways of screwing with the communication process of bacteria, presumably to slow and/or prevent the three activities above they engage in that are bad for us.  If you want to check out more of this, search a microbiology literature source for "quorum sensing"



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Offline bezoar

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #13 on: 18/03/2004 11:58:41 »
Oops, you're right Chris, I did mean Vancomycin resistant.  Can't trust what people type when they're sleepy.
 

Offline cuso4

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #14 on: 31/03/2004 12:59:45 »
We've just been talking about MRSA and antibiotic resistance in my biology classes. My teacher said that bacterial infections are actually better treated with specific bacteriophages. And even if the bateria became immune due to mutation the phage will also change to keep up with the bateria. She also said that phage therapy actually have been used by the Russians for a long time! How come we don't have phage therapy here in the UK or in the US?

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Offline tweener

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #15 on: 01/04/2004 03:07:19 »
Probably because the pharmaceutical companies can't make enough money on it to payoff the FDA to get it approved.

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Offline NakedScientist

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #16 on: 02/04/2004 04:57:57 »
This work is being done in the UK by a number of labs, including a group at Warwick University who have been re-awakening dormant bacteriophages which had previously lain undiscovered inside the genomes of bacteria (MRSA in fact).
Bacteriophage therapy is discussed on the show, and the transcript is further down the same page :

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/html/shows/2004.01.11.htm

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Offline Big_Jules

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #17 on: 08/04/2004 05:16:34 »
It might be worth adding to Chris' discussion of influenza (the virus responsible for the 'true flu') that the virus can mutate in each of two major surface proteins, the haemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N), both of which are important in general for infection. This is where such descriptions as H5N1 come from. Either of these two molecules can change in subtle ways, called antigenic drfit, or in more dramatic ways, called antigenic shift. These refer to changes that are relevant as to how our bodily defences, specifically the immune system, 'see' the virus. Major outbreaks, including pandemics (global spread) are usually associated with strains that have undergone antigenic shift. These are unknown by our defences and attack readily. Viruses that have undergone drift may be sufficiently similar to be recognised by immune memory, including the immunity conferred by immunisation.

It may also be, as with other pathogenic organisms that some changes may also increase the virulence, or the ability of the agent to cause disease.
 

Offline tweener

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #18 on: 01/04/2004 03:07:19 »
Probably because the pharmaceutical companies can't make enough money on it to payoff the FDA to get it approved.

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Offline NakedScientist

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #19 on: 02/04/2004 04:57:57 »
This work is being done in the UK by a number of labs, including a group at Warwick University who have been re-awakening dormant bacteriophages which had previously lain undiscovered inside the genomes of bacteria (MRSA in fact).
Bacteriophage therapy is discussed on the show, and the transcript is further down the same page :

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/html/shows/2004.01.11.htm

TNS
 

Offline Big_Jules

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #20 on: 08/04/2004 05:16:34 »
It might be worth adding to Chris' discussion of influenza (the virus responsible for the 'true flu') that the virus can mutate in each of two major surface proteins, the haemagglutinin (H) and the neuraminidase (N), both of which are important in general for infection. This is where such descriptions as H5N1 come from. Either of these two molecules can change in subtle ways, called antigenic drfit, or in more dramatic ways, called antigenic shift. These refer to changes that are relevant as to how our bodily defences, specifically the immune system, 'see' the virus. Major outbreaks, including pandemics (global spread) are usually associated with strains that have undergone antigenic shift. These are unknown by our defences and attack readily. Viruses that have undergone drift may be sufficiently similar to be recognised by immune memory, including the immunity conferred by immunisation.

It may also be, as with other pathogenic organisms that some changes may also increase the virulence, or the ability of the agent to cause disease.
 

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Re: Superflu?
« Reply #20 on: 08/04/2004 05:16:34 »

 

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