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Virology News
Topical news snippets about viruses that affect people. And other things.
Curated by Ed Rybicki
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Potential for H3N2 influenza pandemic

Potential for H3N2 influenza pandemic | Virology News | Scoop.it

The 2009 swine-origin H1N1 influenza, though antigenically novel to the population at the time, was antigenically similar to the 1918 H1N1 pandemic influenza, and consequently was considered to be [ldquo]archived[rdquo] in the swine species before reemerging in humans. Given that the H3N2 is another subtype that currently circulates in the human population and is high on WHO pandemic preparedness list, we assessed the likelihood of reemergence of H3N2 from a non-human host. Using HA sequence features relevant to immune recognition, receptor binding and transmission we have identified several recent H3 strains in avian and swine that present hallmarks of a reemerging virus. IgG polyclonal raised in rabbit with recent seasonal vaccine H3 fail to recognize these swine H3 strains suggesting that existing vaccines may not be effective in protecting against these strains.


Vaccine strategies can mitigate risks associated with a potential H3N2 pandemic in humans.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

No-one think of H3N2...except, as it happens, these folk - who have shown quite convincingly that circulating strains of H3N2 in birds and pigs would be quite capable of avoiding vaccine-conferred immunity, and potentially of causing a pandemic, if they reassorted with human-infecting viruses.  

 

I can't help but feel that there are several ticking influenza pandemic time bombs out there...H5N1, H7N9, and now H3N2.

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China culls birds as bird flu deaths mount | Reuters

China culls birds as bird flu deaths mount | Reuters | Virology News | Scoop.it
SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese authorities slaughtered over 20,000 birds on Friday at a poultry market in the financial hub Shanghai as the death toll from a new strain of bird flu mounted to six,...
Ed Rybicki's insight:

"The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form (meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds)," said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain's Imperial College London.

"But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes."

 

Sinister...but interesting that a LPAI should be so lethal in humans??

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Scientists find how deadly new virus infects human cells

Scientists find how deadly new virus infects human cells | Virology News | Scoop.it
LONDON  - Scientists have worked out how a deadly new virus which was unknown in humans until last year is able to infect human cells and cause severe, potentially fatal damage to the lungs. The finding, published in the journal Nature, came as the...
Ed Rybicki's insight:

It is unprecedented how quickly people are finding things out about this new virus - but then, the technology is so advanced these days, that we should HOPE they would.  Especially if it takes off....

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H7N9 virus: Should SA be worried?

H7N9 virus: Should SA be worried? | Virology News | Scoop.it

It has been described as one of the world’s most lethal flu viruses.

More than 20 people have already died from it in China, and more than 100 are infected.

The new strain of bird flu, the H7N9, has caused such a stir in the medical field that local practitioners are on a drive to educate South Africans on the importance of getting flu vaccines.

“This strain is actually nothing new, but the virus is changing itself… it’s becoming bigger and it is absolutely critical that everyone be vaccinated. It doesn’t appear that any South Africans have contracted or are in danger of the virus. but flu spreads quickly, and while we don’t want to scare people, there needs to be awareness,” said Professor Lynne Webber, head of the medical virology department at the University of Pretoria.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

Seconded on people getting flu vaccines...although there IS no available vaccine that would protect against this one, so the point is moot!

 

What this points up rather strongly is that SA needs a capacity to make emergency response vaccines - because we most definitely will not get any from anyone else, if this one goes pandemic, just as happened in 2009 with the H1N1pdm virus.

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PLOS Pathogens: Environmental Predictors of Seasonal Influenza Epidemics across Temperate and Tropical Climates

PLOS Pathogens: Environmental Predictors of Seasonal Influenza Epidemics across Temperate and Tropical Climates | Virology News | Scoop.it

Human influenza infections exhibit a strong seasonal cycle in temperate regions. Recent laboratory and epidemiological evidence suggests that low specific humidity conditions facilitate the airborne survival and transmission of the influenza virus in temperate regions, resulting in annual winter epidemics. However, this relationship is unlikely to account for the epidemiology of influenza in tropical and subtropical regions where epidemics often occur during the rainy season or transmit year-round without a well-defined season. We assessed the role of specific humidity and other local climatic variables on influenza virus seasonality by modeling epidemiological and climatic information from 78 study sites sampled globally. We substantiated that there are two types of environmental conditions associated with seasonal influenza epidemics: “cold-dry” and “humid-rainy”. For sites where monthly average specific humidity or temperature decreases below thresholds of approximately 11–12 g/kg and 18–21°C during the year, influenza activity peaks during the cold-dry season (i.e., winter) when specific humidity and temperature are at minimal levels. For sites where specific humidity and temperature do not decrease below these thresholds, seasonal influenza activity is more likely to peak in months when average precipitation totals are maximal and greater than 150 mm per month. These findings provide a simple climate-based model rooted in empirical data that accounts for the diversity of seasonal influenza patterns observed across temperate, subtropical and tropical climates.

Ed Rybicki's insight:

This is really quite a big deal: I blogged recently on the first paper that explored this notion in detail; here we see that paper vindicated, and new data presented.

 

It is interesting that the virus should have evolved to be spread in this way: in drier cold air in temperate climates, and in warm wet air in more tropical climes.  It also very nicely explains seasonality in influenza transmission.

 

Now, let's do something ABOUT it!

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Carl Shiu's comment, March 19, 2013 8:16 AM
Interesting data. In tropical climes, I wonder if this phenomenon is associated with the overcrowding of shelters during intense rainstorms. A temporary increase in population density during these events would likely facilitate increased rates of person-person transmission.
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Coronavirus: is this the next pandemic?

Coronavirus: is this the next pandemic? | Virology News | Scoop.it
Last September a doctor in a Saudi hospital was fired for reporting a new, deadly strain of the coronavirus.
Ed Rybicki's insight:

It could be, it could just be, that this is not alarmist - that it is, in fact, a sober warning for what could be coming.  The Middle East is now a world air transport hub; there is a LOT more movement of people in and out of it, and of livestock into it, than ever before - so time may be ripe for the emergence of a new threat to humans.

 

Let's hope not....

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Stephen Korsman's comment, March 16, 2013 5:06 AM
Fired??? And the "HIV can be cured" lot are NOT fired??
Mitch Saruwatari's curator insight, June 6, 2013 6:40 AM

Great intuitive medicine and shared information helped identify and better define the scope of this outbreak.  However, it's sad there are still organizations such as the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health that choose to ignore the early signs of potentially global infectious agents.