Sunday, 26 April 2009

Viral Synchronicity?

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events which are causally unrelated occurring together in a supposedly meaningful manner. In order to count as synchronicity, the events should be unlikely to occur together by chance.

December -29-2008
Scientists state that they have isolated the genes that made the 1918 flu lethal.
The flu pandemic of 1918 - 1919 caused between 20-100 million deaths and infected one billion people, approximately half of the population of the world at that time.

It was caused by an unusually virulent and deadly Influenza A Virus strain of subtype H1N1. This was thought to have caused an overreaction of the body's immune system which explains its unusually severe nature and the concentrated age profile of its victims. The strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults meant that in these age groups there were far fewer deaths.

Scientists working on tissue samples of those who died during the 1918 pandemic and found that :

"For the most part, substituting single genes from the 1918 virus onto the template of a much more benign contemporary virus yielded agents that could only replicate in the upper respiratory tract. One exception, however, included a complex of three genes that, acting in concert with another key gene, allowed the virus to efficiently colonize lung cells and make RNA polymerase, a protein necessary for the virus to reproduce."

They went on to state:

"The 1918 virus replicates in the upper respiratory tract, but also in the lungs, causing primary pneumonia among its victims."

A full ninety years later there is an outbreak of another deadly Type A, subtype N1H1 virus that causes pneumonia without necessarily affecting the upper respiratory tract and that seems to mainly affect people with strong immune systems, and that only four months after we learnt how the original virus did this.

"This is an interesting virus. It's a brand new virus, not only to humans but to the world," said Dr Frank Plummer, scientific director of the Winnipeg lab, where samples from the current outbreak are being analyzed. He went on to state that it appears to have four different elements that have never been combined before and states "It's recombined [re-assorted ?] to create something totally new. How it did that, where it did it, when it did it, I don't think we know yet.

Luckily CDC officials have said the swine flu A/H1N1 virus is susceptible to the newer antivirals oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), but not the older ones, amantadine and rimantadine. Shame that, because the older ones are off patent and not nearly as expensive as the newer ones.

What is really worrying is that there have been escaped viruses or accidentally contaminated vaccines in the not too distant past.

Escaped virus - Some scientists say the 1977 Russian flu, the most recent global outbreak, began when a virus escaped from a laboratory.

Contaminated materials - Feb. 2009, Baxter International Inc. in Austria unintentionally contaminated materials with the bird flu virus, which were then used in laboratories in three neighboring countries, raising concern about the potential spread of the deadly disease.

The incident was reported to the Austrian Ministry of Health, Sigrid Rosenberger, a ministry spokeswoman said "This was infected with a bird flu virus. There were some people from the company who handled it"

The material was intended for use in laboratories, and none of the lab workers have fallen ill. The incident is raising concern over the safety of research using the H5N1 bird flu strain which haskilled more than three-fifths of the people known to have caught the virus worldwide.

The virus material was supposed to contain a seasonal flu virus and was contaminated after “human error,” said Christopher Bona, a spokesman for Baxter, in a telephone interview.

Baxter “moved very quickly to sanitize and protect employees,” Bona said. “Labs have been sanitized, potentially contaminated materials have been destroyed and employees were tested and considered not to be at risk.”

Baxter, the world’s largest maker of blood-disease treatments, is one of the companies working on a vaccine to be used in case of a flu pandemic so that should all reassure us when it comes to time to be vaccinated.

1 comment:

  1. What a synchronistic title...