New HHS head takes on swine flu

As news of the first American swine flu death--a 23-month-old baby in Texas--broke yesterday, the US Senate confirmed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's appointment to head the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and she got right to work voicing the government's response to the potential pandemic. This morning (April 29), the new HHS secretary--backed by acting Center for Disease Control director Richard Besser, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anth

By | April 29, 2009

As news of the first American swine flu death--a 23-month-old baby in Texas--broke yesterday, the US Senate confirmed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius's appointment to head the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and she got right to work voicing the government's response to the potential pandemic. This morning (April 29), the new HHS secretary--backed by acting Center for Disease Control director Richard Besser, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci and others--gave her first press conference on swine flu. "We'll be working quickly, but safety is and will remain our top priority," Sebelius said in discussing the agency's efforts to formulate a vaccine to combat the new flu strain. She added that once a successful vaccine candidate is developed, the National Institutes of Health will quickly carry out clinical trials to assess safety and proper dosing of the drug. Meanwhile at Columbia University, bioinformatician linkurl:Raul Rabadan;http://wiki.c2b2.columbia.edu/rabadan/homepage/ and his colleagues compared the sequence data from the flu virus that has infected hundreds of people in Mexico and elsewhere to more than 10,000 virus sequences in the National Center for Biotechnology Information database. Contrary to some media reports that have characterized the current strain as a mixture of swine, avian, and human viruses, Rabadan said that the virus appears to be decidedly more swine-like. "The closest relatives to this virus are found in swine," Rabadan said, adding that most of the virus seems to be related to previously isolated swine virus in North America, but that another part of the virus seems to have Asian or European origins. Rabadan added that a part of the current virus may have evolved into a swine virus after a "triple reassortment" event--in which avian, human, and swine viruses combined in pigs-- that likely occurred in 1998, but that all segments of the current virus seem to be of swine origin. Though his results are preliminary, Rabadan's work is helping to form a more complete genetic picture of the new virus as vaccine development ramps up. A good genetic characterization of the novel virus, which is being transmitted from human-to-human and against which there appears to be no background immunity, will be crucial in the coming weeks. "We have not seen this before with this particular virus," Fauci said at the HHS press conference.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Can biotech tackle swine flu?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55666/;
[27th April 2009]*linkurl:Vaccine dreams;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54882/
[August 2008]*linkurl:From SARS to avian flu;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/15315/
[14th March 2005]
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Comments

Avatar of: Jonas Moses

Jonas Moses

Posts: 26

April 29, 2009

With all due respect to our government, to the CDC, the HHS et alia, there is NO clear picture of whether or not this virus will become a serious, global threat to humankind. There is a clear picture emerging, however, that the Media and opportunists in the Pharmaceutical industries, are preying upon the basest human instinct - Fear - in purveying a radical amount of hyperbole regarding the so-called Swine Flu virus. \n\nI find it professionally irresponsible, and personally despicable, that this kind of hyperbolic reporting is being allowed to happen, virtually unchecked. It is typical of these sources to seek out opportunities to create a sort of mass hysteria around such pseudo-endemic, non-pandemic infectious agents. The fact of the matter is - and please, can we stick to the facts, fellow scientists, medical professionals, Public Health officials and governmental leaders (?) - that (currently) there are a mere few hundred cases of human infection with this virus, WORLDWIDE. This does not constitute an epidemic. It does not even constitute a blip.\n\nMore people will die globally, this year, from being struck by lightening, falling in their bathtubs or being accidentally run over by their own motor vehicles. I ask that those of you in prominent positions within the Science, Medicine and Health Policy, please take a public stance against this kind of pseudo-scientific approach to reporting on this and other, similar infectious diseases. \n\nI would point out, in closing, that the avian flu, which garnered huge international press, and was purported to have devastating global impact, only killed some 250 persons, worldwide. While the loss of any individual life is tragic, I maintain that the attention given to the virus causing these deaths did not (and do not now) merit the kind of attention given it, nor does this strain of Swine Flu virus now deserve any of the attention it is being given. \n\nThere are serious infectious disease processes, in every part of the world, which DO deserve our attention, and I (for one) recommend we focus our energies and resources in addressing those.\n\nRespectfully submitted, Dr. Jonas Moses
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 51

April 29, 2009

I have been following the news about the overstated and overblown outbreak of the Swine Flu virus as I live in Colombia, South America. In contrast, the Niña phenomenon (the Pacific Ocean temperature-based cycle of wet and rainy season) has caused during the last months havoc across the country with torments of rains, huge floods, land displacements, and wide spread diseases of dingui, malaria etc.., with high scores of death. The media and health organisations should be more cautious in their assessments of cases like avian and swine flu. In Egypt, for example, more than 10 000 poultry farms have been closed, at a huge losses to local farmers in the past 3 years because of the so-called threat of Asian Avian virus.During the same time the highly corrupt Egyptian regime, allowed imports of meat poultry from various source countries that also claimed the presence of avian virus!. Egypt policy is encouraging importation of food items at the detriment of local production. Does this indicate manipulatory busines run by mafia supported by tht Egyptian regime?.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 3

April 30, 2009

Let's be optimistic and say that a vaccine will be developed for the H1N1 which, even by the most optimistic prediction, will take between 4-6 months, what guarantee is there that the virus will not mutate and produce some other strain which does not exist now? Comments from experts, please.
Avatar of: Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith

Posts: 1

April 30, 2009

Rather than focusing on making a vaccine for new strains, we ought to turn our attention to those regions of the virus that do not mutate all that much. Some of the factors that are critical to vRNA replication like the nucleocapsid protein are as much as 90% conserved through the evolution of the virus. If we targeted these rather than using the traditional antibody/vaccine approach, maybe in six months time we could have an antiviral that would be effective against a much broader range of viral subtypes.

May 5, 2009

In 1976 swine influenza A(H1N1) outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey, from January 19 to February 9. ¿What is the difference to the one appeared in 2009 in USA and Mexico? YOU CAN SEE AN ARTICLE ABOUT THIS WRITEN BY JOEL C. GAYDOS ET AL in\nEmerging Infectious Diseases.www.cdc.gov/eid.Vol,12,No1,January2006

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