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Sunday 24th June 2018

Scientist breakthrough on H5N1

12th September 2006

15032006_H5N1.jpgResearchers in Vietnam have discovered a potential reason to explain why the H5N1 strain of bird flu is so much more deadly to people than standard human flu. 

The study published in Nature Medicine found that the bird flu virus triggers a massive inflammatory response, which often proves fatal. The team, from the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, looked at 18 people who had had H5N1 and eight who had had a normal flu strain.

They found that the patients infected with H5N1 had much higher viral loads in the throat than those patients infected with the human flu virus, and the markers of viral load were highest in the H5N1 patients who had died.

The presence of high levels of H5N1 virus triggered a release of proteins called cytokines. The highest levels of cytokines were seen in those with the highest viral loads, who were those who had died. There was also an associated loss of lymphocytes in the peripheral blood in these cases. These factors may lead to lung damage and, on many occasions death, suggest the team.

"The focus of clinical management should be on preventing this intense cytokine response, by early diagnosis and effective antiviral treatment." says Dr Menno de Jong, writing in Nature Medicine.

This provides vital information about how best to treat people infected with the virus, say UK experts. Professor John Oxford, a virus expert at Barts and The London NHS Trust said it showed people infected with H5N1 should be treated with antiviral drugs to reduce the amount of virus in their systems.

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