Scientists pinpoint antibodies that may afford protection against many influenza strains.
NBC Nightly News (2/22, story 5, 2:40, Holt) reported, “The yearly ritual of Americans lining up each fall for flu shots that may or may not defeat whatever bug that’s out there, could become a thing of the past, if some breakthrough research…pans out.”
The New York Times (2/23, A12, McNeil) reports, “In a discovery that could radically change how the world fights influenza, researchers have” newly identified “antibodies that protect against many strains of the virus, including even the…H5N1 bird flu.” The breakthrough “could lead to the development of a flu vaccine that would not have to be changed yearly.” It has even caught the attention of Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., “the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” who says that although the work is “not yet at the point of practicality,” it “is so promising that” he “will offer the researchers grants and access to its ferrets, which can catch human flu.”
The study is generating interest, because “public-health officials have long warned that there’s no magic bullet to stop another influenza pandemic like the one in 1918 that killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide,” Mary Engel wrote in the Los Angeles Times (2/22) Booster Shorts blog. “Interest in producing such disease-fighters in the laboratory has waxed and waned since the 1970s.” Even though the “first therapeutic monoclonal antibody was approved for humans in 1986,” only 20, since then, have received “US Food and Drug Administration approval, mostly to treat types of cancer or immunological disorders.”
“Normally, flu vaccines are specific to only one strain of virus at a time,” Bloomberg News (2/23, Lopatto) points out. But, team member Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, said his group, comprised of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Burnham Institute for Medical Research, “are all feeling confident that we have opened another avenue of research.” The research was published online Feb. 22 in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.
The Boston Globe (2/23, Smith), the Canadian Press (2/23), WebMD (2/22, DeNoon), HealthDay (2/22, Reinberg), the Boston Globe (2/22, Smith) White Coat Notes blog, CNN (2/22, Park), NPR (2/23, Silberner), AFP (2/23), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (2/23), and the UK’s Press Association (2/23), Telegraph (2/23, Leach), Independent (2/23, Laurance), and Daily Mail (2/22, Derbyshire) all covered the story.
Experts contend public health plans designed to control influenza outbreaks may be flawed. MedWire (2/23, Gray) reports, “The effect of pre- or asymptomatic influenza transmission may have been overestimated in studies looking at pandemic planning, according to a viewpoint article published in the journal Public Health Reports.” Before drawing that conclusion, authors Eleni Patrozou and Leonard Mermel of Brown University “conducted a systematic review of studies that investigated the relationship between viral shedding and disease transmission.” They explained that “public health plans designed to control outbreaks of influenza involve isolating symptomatic patients and quarantining their contacts.” Yet, success in detecting disease symptoms early is often “limited by transmission occurring before the onset of symptoms, transmission from asymptomatic infection, and the ‘inherent transmissibility’ of an infectious agent.” So, “in order for infection control models to be effective, a better understanding of transmission is required,” the pair said.
From The Endocrine Society
This spring, clinical endocrine fellowship programs will be able to assess their fellows’ level of competence and their program’s progress in training fellows via the new Endocrine Self-Assessment Program-In-Training Examination® (ESAP-ITE®). Modeled after the American Board of Internal Medicine’s certification examination, ESAP-ITE® will cover the spectrum of knowledge in clinical endocrinology, serving as a self-assessment tool for identifying areas of current mastery, as well as areas needing educational emphasis.
The exam is available from April 1 - April 30, 2009. Program directors must register their fellows by March 1, 2009. Visit the Society’s website at http://r.listpilot.net/c/endocrine/3ev5fs0/1odd0 for more information.