Natural resistance to bird flu13th February 2007
A US study suggests that some people may be naturally immune to the effects of avian influenza.
Researchers from the St Jude's Children's Research Hospital have found that natural resistance to flu strains could be translated into immunity against bird flu itself. In studying mice and humans they found that seasonal human flu (H1N1) and bird flu contain a closely related neuraminidase (N1), a disease spreading agent, meaning that people immune to the former could have a similar resistance to the latter.
The researchers immunised the mice with DNA that caused their cells to make neuraminidase from the H1N1 virus. They then examined the mice's immune response to the human N1 and avian N1 which had been isolated from a patient in south east Asia. They found that all the mice survived infection from a manmade flu virus containing human N1, while half died after being infected with avian N1.
In tests on 38 human volunteers they found similar encouraging results, the researchers saying that "the human data suggest that a proportion of people have low titer [concentration of] antibodies against H5N1 influenza because of prior exposure to H1N1 viruses or routine influenza vaccination." Further work, however, is necessary to indicate there is actual protection in humans against avian flu.
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