Friday, November 11, 2005

H5N1 - Reveal Your Secrets!!

It seems that scientists in Hong Kong have come up with the reason that Avian flu is so deadly in humans and why - as with the 1918 flu - it seems to take its worst toll in the young and healthy people.

It seems that the virus causes a cascade of chemicals (cytokines) which attract immune cells. While these alarm calls are usually a good thing but in this case the alarms all go off at once which is like calling the entire police force of a country in to a single armed robbery. Things go down hill quickly. There was some evidence that a similar over reaction by the immune system caused the lethal reactions to the SARS virus.

This discovery might lead to new methods of treatment that combine anti-virals with mild immune suppressing medications. Such discoveries are welcome news given the continuing progress of the virus.

It is interesting to note that Hong Kong scientists, who live in a nation that is considered a security risk to the United States, were the ones to have made this discovery. It sort of reinforces the need for global collaboration on science issues and for openness with data. Hear that Ray K.?

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