‘Free 10 Day Autumn or Winter Break: You may not win a Nobel Prize, but you could help find a cure for the common cold.’
Is this a pandemic being born? [Google cache] The H7N9 (Bird) Flu Virus May Have Adapted To Mammals. The WHO is investigating. Four new human cases were identified late Tuesday.
"Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets." After an extensive, months-long debate, one of two controversial papers showing ways the H5N1 "avian" influenza virus could potentially become transmissible in mammals with only 3 or 4 mutations was published in Nature today. The journal included an editorial on the merits and drawbacks of "publishing risky research" with regard to biosafety. The debate included an unprecedented recommendation by The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication -- a decision they later reversed. (Via: 1, 2) Nature's special report has additional articles, including interviews with the teams behind both papers.
MIT scientist Dr. Todd Rider has developed a viral infection treatment that works by triggering host cell suicide when it finds the cell has been producing double-stranded RNA. Since dsRNA is the mechanism by which all viral infections proceed, but is not part of normal cellular function, the treatment seems both universal and safe. [more inside]
1.7 million deaths in the U.S. and 180-360 million dead globally. That's the estimate of the impact of the next influenza pandemic from Michael Osterholm, published in today's New England Journal of Medicine. He warns that almost every public health response to the inevitable emergence of pandemic influenza A strain is unplanned or inadequate: A vaccine would take minimum six months (and millions of fertilized chicken eggs); there are no plans to setup and staff the temporary isolation wards or replace dead health-care workers; nor are there detailed plans for handling the number of dead bodies. Given the deeply interconnected nature of the global economy a pandemic would be impossible to stop and wreak havoc in every nation. "Frankly the crisis could for all we know have started last night in some village in Southeast Asia," said Dr. Paul Gully, Canada's deputy chief public health officer. "We don't have any time to waste and even if we did have some time, the kinds of things we need to do will take years. Right now, the best we can do is try to survive it. We need a Manhattan Project yesterday."
The Big Picture Book of Viruses is "intended to serve as both a catalog of virus pictures on the Internet and as an educational resource to those seeking more information about viruses. To this end, it is intimately linked to All the Virology on the WWW, and our collection of Virology Courses and Tutorials." Interesting electron micrographs include pictures of Marburg and Ebola viruses and T-4 like phages. Once a bio geek, always a bio geek. And for some other information about why viruses always matter see The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (sorry the page design sucks but it's a good read) and The American Experience: Influenza 1918. Are you sure that runny nose is just allergies?