Implementation During Flu Season Could Lead to Earlier Treatment, Better Infection Control According to experts, flu season 2012 is just beginning. Despite the late start, severe flu can be expected to affect up to five million people worldwide. While most patients recover, up to 500, 000 will die, with the youngest and oldest being most vulnerable. Two new studies being published early online in Annals of Internal Medicine highlight the importance of rapid diagnosis and treatment of flu. For patients who present with flu-like symptoms ( fever, cough, sore throat ), obtaining an accurate diagnosis is critical to patient management and infection control. Viral cultures are proven accurate, but turnaround from culture to lab result can take up to 10 days. Newer reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests are much quicker than viral cultures, but they are very expensive and require specialized equipment.
Influenza virus can rapidly evolve from one form to another, complicating the effectiveness of vaccines and anti-viral drugs used to treat it. By first understanding the complex host cell pathways that the flu uses for replication, University of Georgia researchers are finding new strategies for therapies and vaccines, according to a study published in the January issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The researchers studied RNA interference to determine the host genes influenza uses for virus replication. All viruses act as parasites by latching onto healthy cells and hijacking the cells' components, essentially turning the cell into a factory that produces copies of the virus. This process begins when influenza binds to sugars found on the surface of host cells in the lung and respiratory tract.
Closing elementary and secondary schools can help slow the spread of infectious disease and should be considered as a control measure during pandemic outbreaks, according to a McMaster University led study. Using high-quality data about the incidence of influenza infections in Alberta during the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, the researchers show that when schools closed for the summer, the transmission of infection from person to person was sharply reduced. "Our study demonstrates that school-age children were important drivers of pH1N1 transmission in 2009, " says David Earn, lead author of the study published in Annals of Internal Medicine. Earn is professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and member of McMaster's Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR).
Masks and hand hygiene could cut the spread of flu-like symptoms up to 75 percent, a University of Michigan study found. A new report shows the second-year results (2007-2008) of the ground-breaking U-M M-Flu study found up to a 75 percent reduction in flu-like illness over the study period when using hand hygiene and wearing surgical masks in residence halls, said Allison Aiello, associate professor of epidemiology in the U-M School of Public Health. Aiello and Dr. Arnold Monto, SPH professor of epidemiology, are co-principal investigators of the M-Flu study. While the study also showed a 43 percent reduction in the rate of flu, it wasn't statistically significant. Students were more likely to report influenza-like symptoms than to provide laboratory samples for confirmed cases, Aiello said.
Researchers at the University of Southampton, University of Oxford and Retroscreeen Virology Ltd have discovered a series of peptides, found on the internal structures of influenza viruses that could lead to the development of a universal vaccine for influenza, one that gives people immunity against all strains of the disease, including seasonal, avian, and swine flu. Influenza, an acute viral infection, affects hundreds of thousands of people a year and puts an enormous strain on healthcare providers globally. The last pandemic flu outbreak in the UK - swine flu - was in 2009 when it claimed 457 lives. While previous pandemics have been more serious, there is a heightened risk of more severe pandemics in the future. The scientific collaboration used a research method known as "Human Viral Challenge Studies", where healthy volunteers are infected with influenza virus, and their immune responses closely monitored in an isolation unit.