Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bird Flu Outbreak Provides Virtual Laboratory

While an unwelcome development, the explosion of human cases of avian flu in Turkey is a scientific bonanza for researchers and public health authorities trying to unravel the mysteries of the H5N1 strain and better assess its risk to global health, experts admit. Never before have scientists had the opportunity to study so many newly diagnosed cases in such a short period of time. Amplifying the benefit is the fact that at least some were diagnosed early in their infections, allowing doctors to monitor how the antiviral drug Tamiflu performs against this virus when commenced early in the disease course.

The willingness of Turkish authorities to collaborate with international scientists adds to the sense that this flare up of disease has the real potential to push out the bounds of H5N1 science. Researchers got another gift in the form of two children whose worried parents rushed them for testing at the first sign of a sniffle because they'd been in contact with sick poultry. They tested positive and were quickly started on Tamiflu. The willingness of Turkish authorities to send sample viruses to Britain for testing and genetic sequencing already suggests researchers who have been charting the evolution of the H5N1 family of viruses may have easier access to isolates from Turkey than they have from East Asian countries. Read More ....

Source: CTV
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