Bird flu warning: Antiviral pill may be useless

In 1933, MRC (Medical Research Council) researchers identified human influenza virus, at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in London – which was to become one of the most important centres in the world for flu research.

Since then the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) has been at the forefront of research in to the Influenza viruses.

It is therefore more than a little disturbing when Dr Alan Hay, a distinguished NIMR scientist drops a bombshell about the Human Influenza virus and the so called antiviral protection against the virus.

Apparently, all those countries which have been spending Millions of Dollars stockpiling Tamiflu, the main antiviral drug used to protect humans against the Bird Flu, have been wasting their money!

A Report co-authored by Alan Hay, of the UK’s National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) says that the Tamiflu is useless against the mutations of the Bird Flu virus.

The report suggests that the mutations of the H5N1 Bird Flu virus, that have emerged in human influenza, are resistant to the antiviral drug Tamiflu.

However, according to the same report, the mutations are still “strongly inhibited” by an alternative drug, Relenza.

Both drugs are commonly stockpiled but governments both in Australia and around the world have favoured the more convenient Tamiflu pill ahead of the inhaled medicine Relenza.

“The mutations cause resistance to Tamiflu but not Relenza,” Dr Hay told ABC Radio.

“It’s clear that there is greater potential for Tamiflu-resistant viruses to emerge than was previously thought. Relying on a single drug is foolhardy when more than one drug is available.”

Dr Hay says one implication of the new research is that governments should stockpile greater courses of Relenza.

That is of course, until the new drug Relenza, also becomes useless against the influenza virus due to further mutations of the virus!




With all the doom and gloom about the increasing spread of the Bird Flu virus, here is a funny video related to the dreaded subject:

Spread of Bird Flu in to Bihar could be really bad news.

The State Government of Bihar today ordered culling of chickens in six panchayat areas in Katihar district, adjacent to affected Malda district of West Bengal, “as a preventive measure”, a day after imposing a blanket ban on entry of poultry from the neighbouring state.
Earlier, contrary to the claims of the West Bengal govt that bird flu has been contained, the deadly virus on Wednesday was detected in samples of dead chicken in Cooch Behar district.
The state of Bihar is under-developed even when compared to most of the other regions of India.
The poverty and lack of education, specially within the large Muslim population in Bihar makes it an ideal target for the killer virus.
Basic Hygiene and common sense give way to tradition and religious practices in this part of India
I have always believed that the number of the human victims of the bird flu are directly related to the custom of Halal, where the poultry is killed by making a cut in the throat of the bird and letting the blood flow out while the bird is held up side down by its feet.
Bihar like the State of West Bengal, is host to millions of refugees from the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, where H5N1 is thought to be endemic now.
So if bird flu in Bengal is bad, it could be a lot worse in Bihar.

2008 the year of the Flu Pandemic?

I have been following the H5N1 virus for a while now.
Since the year 2003, the bird flu virus repeatedly seems to appeare out of no where, for no visible reason, mostly in a remote (from the point of view of the west) country in the far east and then, after a short period of local panic, the virus disappears, again for no provable reason.
We have gotten used to this peak-a-boo game, with the deadliest of potential dangers to mankind to such an extent, that there are “journalists” taking bets against the chance of a pandemic-in-our-time.
There are others who think that bird flu is a social network tool and have regular get together shindings and a jolly good knees-up.
This year is different however.
The year started with the H5N1 virus ruling the roost, so to speak, in 10 countries just in the first 15 days of the year!
This time the outbreaks of the virus seem to be spreading much faster over a much wider area.
Portugal, Dominica, Israel, Benin, Vietnam, China, West Bengal in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar have all been hit by outbreaks.
On Wednesday, a fourth swan died of the H5N1 virus in the Abbotsbury reserve in Dorset, southern England.
So can this be the year that the dreaded pandemic visits mankind once again?
With the US Presidential election in full swing, will any one pay attention to what could be a vast shadow creeping silently over all of us?
Come to think of it, did any of the Presidential Candidates mention bird flu in any of the debates?
Is it even politically correct to mention the bird flu virus these days?
I mean would the color of the poultry and the birds (other than the totally white British swans) come into play?

Bird Flu Good news at last!

There has been a new step forward in the development of an effective vaccine against H5N1, the bird flu virus that’s also dangerous to humans.
By adding an agent that stimulates the immune system, it appears that the existing vaccine is effective against various strains of the bird flu virus.

Uncertainty has been the biggest problem in developing an effective vaccine against the variant of H5N1 that’s dangerous to humans.

Uncertainty about which strain of the virus it is, and uncertainty over which type of bird flu could develop into a flu virus that might cause a worldwide epidemic. That made it almost impossible to develop a preventative vaccine.
But with the discovery made by the British pharmaceutical company Glaxo Smith Klein, uncertainty over the virus strain has become less significant.
The improved vaccine has been tested by Viro-Clinics, part of the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.
According to virologist Ab Osterhaus, there are several reasons to speak of a breakthrough:
“The vaccine protects against different variants of the H5N1 virus, including new strains.” Professor Ab OsterhausAccording to the virologist, that’s unique.“We have always had to react after the event, but now we can produce a vaccine that offers protection against new and forthcoming variants of the same virus.”What’s more, tests have shown that by adding the agent, a lot less vaccine is required. And that’s very important during a worldwide flu epidemic, when huge quantities of vaccine are needed.

The agent is a so-called adjuvant that is added to a medicine to strengthen its effectiveness.

In this case, the substance stimulates the immune system and improves the response to the vaccine.

The Erasmus Medical Centre tested the agent on people and on ferrets which, like people, suffer from flu viruses.

 Osterhaus explained the results: “The humans appeared to have a relatively broad immune response.

The ferrets were first vaccinated, then exposed to H5N1, and there too we witnessed a demonstrably broad protection against the virus.”

free Tamiflu for all visitors to Indonesia?

You have to hand it to the Indonesians for their chutzpah, in launching the new Visit Indonesia 2008 tourism campaign, at the same time as we hear about at least five Indonesians apparently infected with the deadly bird flu virus.
The campaign slogan, inaugurated by Indonesian Tourism Minister Jero Wacik last week, is also plastered on Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda planes, Website and on its promotional TV ads, with a tag line: “Celebrating 100 years of a nation’s awakening”.
Some have suggested that the new slogan should be “free Tamiflu for all visitors to Indonesia” instead!
The country is embarking on the campaign to revive its flagging tourism industry which recorded a drop of about four million foreign tourist arrivals, in 2006.
Some of the reasons for the drop in tourism are:
Indonesia’s has not been in the good books of its Gods and the country has had to go through multiple disasters one after the other.
There was the devastating 2004 year-end tsunami, followed by severe flooding and there have been several volcanic eruptions since then.
Also, due to numerous air crashes, some involves its national carrier Garuda, air travel, which is a necessity for residents of the country’s far-flung islands, saftey has also become an issue.
To top it all, the European Union has banned Indonesian air carriers flying over the EU airspace!.
Then there have been a series of bombings by Islamic-based extremist group which operates under the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) organization in the Southeast Asian region has kept tourists further at bay.

A Jakarta court has just opened the trial of Abu Dujana, who is being charged with plotting terrorist activities, including in possession of explosives.

He is being blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings, which resulted in the death of 202 people, mostly Australian tourists.

However, the most worrying problem for the potential visitors to Indonesia is of course the Bird Flu virus, which has killed more people in Indonesia to date, than any where else in the world.

Siti Supari, the controversial Indonesian Health Minister has not made things easy for her country, by taking on the WHO and other global agencies by refusing to let the world scientific community have the tssue samples, from the Indonesian victims of theBird Flu virus.

The government’s apparent poor handling of the on-going bird flu health scare which undoubtedly will be on the mind of tourists visiting the country.

May be they should offer free Tamiflu to all tourists to Indonesia, just in case.


Bird-Flu Mutates to Mix with Swine-Flu

Researchers have identified a new strain of swine influenza—H2N3—which is a mutated virus gene, composed of avian and swine influenza genes.
H2N3 which belongs to the group of H2 influenza viruses that last infected humans during the 1957 pandemic.
Department of Agriculture Seal

The research team at Agricultural Research Service, studied an unknown pathogen that in 2006 infected two groups of pigs at separate production facilities.

Both groups of pigs used water obtained from ponds frequented by migrating waterfowl.

Molecular studies indicated the unknown pathogen was an H2N3 influenza virus that is closely related to an H2N3 strain found in mallard ducks. But this was the first time it had been observed in mammals.

Influenza viruses have eight gene segments, all of which can be swapped between different virus strains.

Two of these gene segments code for virus surface proteins that help determine whether an influenza virus is able to infect a specific host and start replicating—the first step in the onset of influenza infection.

In the newly isolated swine H2N3, the avian H2 and N3 gene segments mixed with gene segments from common swine influenza viruses.

This exchange—and additional mutations—gave the H2N3 viruses the ability to infect swine. Lab tests confirmed that this strain of H2N3 could also infect mice and ferrets.

These findings provide further evidence that swine have the potential to serve as a “mixing vessel” for influenza viruses carried by birds, pigs and humans. It also supports the need to continue monitoring swine—and livestock workers—for H2-subtype viruses and other influenza strains that might someday threaten swine and human health.

Results of this study were published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s chief scientific research agency.

The research Scientists:

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) veterinarians Juergen Richt, Amy Vincent, Kelly Lager and Phillip Gauger conducted this research with Iowa State University (ISU) visiting scientist Wenjun Ma, ISU veterinarian Bruce Janke and other colleagues at the University of Minnesota and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The ARS veterinarians work at the agency’s National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa.