Could New Flu Spark Global Flu Pandemic?

New Bird Flu Strain Seen Adapting to Mammals, Humans

A genetic analysis of the avian flu virus responsible for at least nine human deaths in China portrays a virus evolving to adapt to human cells, raising concern about its potential to spark a new global flu pandemic.

The collaborative study, conducted by a group led by Masato Tashiro of the Influenza Virus Research Center, National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tokyo, appears in the current edition (April 11, 2013) of the journal Eurosurveillance. The group examined the genetic sequences of H7N9 isolates from four of the pathogen's human victims as well as samples derived from birds and the environs of a Shanghai market.

"The human isolates, but not the avian and environmental ones, have a protein mutation that allows for efficient growth in human cells and that also allows them to grow at a temperature that corresponds to the upper respiratory tract of humans, which is lower than you find in birds," says Kawaoka, a leading expert on avian influenza.

The findings, drawn from genetic sequences deposited by Chinese researchers into an international database, provide some of the first molecular clues about a worrisome new strain of bird flu, the first human cases of which were reported on March 31 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, the new virus has sickened at least 33 people, killing nine. Although it is too early to predict its potential to cause a pandemic, signs that the virus is adapting to mammalian and, in particular, human hosts are unmistakable, says Kawaoka.

Access to the genetic information in the viruses, he adds, is necessary for understanding how the virus is evolving and for developing a candidate vaccine to prevent infection.

Influenza virus depends on its ability to attach to and commandeer the living cells of its host to replicate and spread efficiently. Avian influenza rarely infects humans, but can sometimes adapt to people, posing a significant risk to human health.

"These viruses possess several characteristic features of mammalian influenza viruses, which likely contribute to their ability to infect humans and raise concerns regarding their pandemic potential," Kawaoka and his colleagues conclude in the Eurosurveillance report.

Kawaoka, a faculty member in the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine who also holds a faculty appointment at the University of Tokyo, explains that the majority of the viruses in the study -- from both humans and birds -- display mutations in the surface protein hemagglutinin, which the pathogen uses to bind to host cells. Those mutations, according to Kawaoka, allowed them to easily infect human cells.

In addition, the isolates from patients contained another mutation that allows the virus to efficiently replicate inside human cells. The same mutation, Kawaoka notes, lets the avian virus thrive in the cooler temperatures of the human upper respiratory system. It is in the cells of the nose and throat that flu typically gains a hold in a mammalian or human host.

Kawaoka and his colleagues also assessed the response of the new strain to drugs used to treat influenza, discovering that one class of commonly used antiviral drugs, ion channel inhibitors which effectively bottle up the virus in the cell, would not be effective; the new strain could be treated with another clinically relevant antiviral drug, oseltamivir.

In addition to Kawaoka and Tashiro, co-authors of the Eurosurveillance report include Tsutomu Kageyama, Seiichiro Fujisaki, Emi Takashita, Hong Xu, Shinya Yamada, Yuko Uchida, Gabriele Neumann and Takehiko Saito. The work was supported by Grants-in-Aid for Pandemic Influenza Research and Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan; by the NIAID Center for Research on Influenza Pathogenesis (CRIP, HHSN266200700010C); by a Grant-in-Aid for Specially Promoted Research, by the Japan Initiative for Global Research Network on Infectious Diseases from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan; and by ERATO, Japan.

Source:Science Daily

R.Sawas

 

What your looks say about your health

Good health often is reflected in an attractive, youthful appearance. So you might be tempted to blame aging and stress for facial lines, unsightly fingernails, or hair loss when, in fact, these flaws can signal underlying health issues, says integrative medicine specialist Dr. Molly M. Roberts, of the Institute for Health & Healing, in San Francisco, "It'll start by whispering, then it'll start talking, and, if you don't pay attention, it'll start yelling and shouting, and then you've got an illness,” she says.

Here are some physical signs that trouble may be lurking beneath the skin's surface.

1. Wrinkles

Although wrinkles are inevitable, they also may be a sign of osteoporosis.

Is your furrowed brow and grooved mouth ratting out your bones? Surprising new research reveals an association between wrinkles and bone health in early-menopausal women.

The worse the wrinkling, the greater the risk of lower bone density. Most wrinkles are the result of aging, but excessive exposure to cigarette smoke or the sun can speed the process.

2. Swollen feet

Shoes too snug? Many conditions, including sprains, strains, injuries, and infections, can cause feet and ankles to balloon. Pregnancy, obesity, and certain medications may cause fluid retention in the lower extremities.

So can certain diseases. If you're one of the 5 million Americans with heart failure, you may be retaining fluid because of your heart’s poor pumping action. Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet is a classic symptom of this condition.

3. Pitted nails

If you avoid the manicurist because your nails are a mess, maybe you need to see a doctor. Nails that are pitted, deformed, or discolored (yellow-brown), or nails that thicken or separate from the nail bed, can point to many health problems.

Nail changes are common in people with psoriasis, a chronic skin condition; psoriatic arthritis, a related joint condition; and alopecia aerate, a type of patchy hair loss.

Pitting has been reported in patients with Reiter’s syndrome, a type of arthritis, and incontinentia pigmenti, a genetic skin condition.

Source :health.com- By Karen Pallarito

B.N

4 ways to keep yourself young

Everyone wants the secret to living longer.

But, guess what? There isn’t just one way to prevent aging.

Here are some tips that may help keep you young, especially women who like to look younger always.

1. Always wear sunscreen.

Applying it daily will reduce the sun’s harmful effects on your skin – and make you appear younger.

Use a product that has UVA and UVB protection. This will ensure you are blocking out both the cancer-causing and aging rays.

2. Try to eat a Mediterranean diet. 

Consuming vegetables, olive oil, fish  – in moderation – has been shown to slow an aging mind.

This type of nutrition is also linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

3. Exercise in order to stay sharp.

Doing crossword puzzles, reading and catching up with friends will work your brain muscles. Don’t forget to incorporate some physical activity into your day as well.

4. Reduce stress.

Deep breathing exercises, such as yoga, or even a change of pace, can help.
Keeping your anxiety at bay will ward off signs of aging. If you are stressed, you will look and feel much older, try to smile even you are angry.

Source: fox news-By Dr. Manny Alvarez

B.N

New Clues to How Flu Virus Spreads

The new research by the University of Maryland School of Public Health also found that when flu patients wear a surgical mask, the release of virus in even the smallest airborne droplets can be significantly reduced, according to FNA.

"People are generally surprised to learn that scientists don't know for sure how flu spreads," said Donald Milton, M.D., Dr.P.H., who directs the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and led the study of influenza virus aerosols published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

"Our study provides new evidence that there is nearly nine times more influenza virus present the smallest airborne droplets in the breath exhaled from those infected with flu than in the larger droplets that would be expected to carry more virus," explains Dr. Milton. "This has important implications for how we prevent the spread of flu."

Routes of flu transmission include:

1) direct or indirect (e.g., doorknobs, keyboards) contact with an infected person,

2) contact via large droplet spray from a respiratory fluid (via coughs and sneezes), and

3) inhalation of fine airborne particles, which are generated by the release of smaller, virus-containing droplets via normal breathing and coughing. The relative importance of these modes of influenza transmission has not been well understood, but is critical in devising effective interventions to protect healthcare workers and vulnerable people, such as infants and the elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that persons with influenza wear surgical masks to prevent transmission to susceptible individuals. Yet, this recommendation has been supported so far by only one study of mask impact on the containment of large droplet spray during influenza infection.

Maryland's study is the first to provide data showing that using a surgical mask can reduce the release of even the smallest droplets containing infectious virus. For this reason, health care facilities should put surgical masks on those suspected of having influenza, and individuals with influenza can protect their families by wearing a mask.

The researchers also tested the impact of wearing a surgical mask on the virus shedding into airborne droplets. Wearing a surgical mask significantly decreased the presence of virus in airborne droplets from exhaled breath. There was a 2.8 fold reduction in the amount of virus shed into the smallest droplets, and a 3.4 fold overall reduction in virus shed in both the coarse and fine and airborne particles.

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Early genetic markers of Alzheimer's risk identified

Alzheimer's brain on the left, normal brain on the right The brains of Alzheimer's patients - like the one on the left - are more shrunken than normal ones

Genetic markers that could help highlight who is at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease have been identified by US scientists.

The research in Neuron identifies mutations that affect the build-up of certain proteins in the brain.

High levels of these tau proteins increase the chance of having the disease.

UK experts said the study could help understand the changes that occur in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

Tangles of a kind of tau called phosphorylated tau (ptau) are a hallmark of the disease.

One of the new gene variants identified by the Washington University School of Medicine team was also shown to be linked to a small increased risk of developing Alzheimer's and a greater risk of cognitive decline.

The team used genetic information from more than 1,200 people, significantly larger than previous studies in this area.

Dr Alison Goate, who led the study, said: "We anticipate that knowledge about the role of these genes in Alzheimer's disease may lead to the identification of new targets from therapies or new animal or cellular models of the disease.

Lifestyle 'plays a role'

UK experts said the study adds to the number of genetic markers that have been linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Doug Brown, director of research and development at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "In discovering new genes that have a link to Alzheimer's, this robust study helps scientists to better understand the way the brain changes when dementia develops.

"Research such as this may in the future help us to engineer treatments aimed at stopping such changes and therefore slowing or stopping the effects of dementia."

He added: "These new gene markers, as important as they are, are likely to be a few of many that might affect a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's.

"However, it is important to stress that lifestyle factors also play a role, and research has shown that eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly are key ways to reduce your risk of dementia."

Source story:BBC

R.Sawas