Studying the virulence of bird flu in humans
New research has shown that the H5N1 avian influenza
virus replicates much more aggressively in humans than other types of human
influenza viruses, which means that quick diagnosis and treatment is vital to
preventing fatalities from the disease.
Researchers at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit
at the Hospital for
Tropical Disease in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, studied 18 patients infected with
H5N1 influenza and eight patients with two types of human influenza.
H5N1 patients had much higher levels of virus in their throats than other
patients. Also, levels of some inflammatory cytokines and chemokines were
correlated with viral load and were highest in the patients who died. One
cytokine, interleukin 8, is produced by bronchial epithelial cells and may play
a role in acute respiratory distress syndrome.
"Our observations indicate that high viral load, and the resulting intense
inflammatory responses, are central to influenza H5N1 pathogenesis," the
researchers said, noting that clinicians should focus on preventing this intense
cytokine response by early diagnosis and antiviral treatment.
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