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Spanish flu - (Jun/12/2014 )

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Not sure there are many people here working on viruses, but this recent published paper already attracted a lot of attention! 

Seems a bit weird to do this, recreating the deadly spanish flu virus!

 

See here: 

http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/abstract/S1931-3128(14)00163-2

 

 

For the short story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/american-scientists-controversially-recreate-deadly-spanish-flu-virus-9529707.html

-pito-

It's not terribly weird, the reasons for doing so are quite valid - if you want to know how it worked and what to look out for, then you need to have something to study and use.  It's the same reasoning for not destroying the last of the (known) smallpox stocks.

-bob1-

Many people dont agree with it..

There are other options to study it. There is some risk involved in it and one might argue if its really needed to do it the way they did it.

-pito-

Of course there is controversy - it probably isn't absolutely necessary to recreate it, but it could be useful.  I would be highly surprised if there wasn't a variant of the 1918 flu floating around at the moment - it's known (IIRC) to have returned at least twice since the 1918 epidemic, and to have killed off fewer people each time, as a result of both some people being resistant due to exposure first or subsequent times around, and evolution of the strain.

 

Note that during the 1918 epidemic, much of the world was under a savage war, antibiotics were few and far between and hospital conditions were primitive compared to today, living conditions (as a part of the war) were horrendous (trench warfare) for many of the victims, and there was mass (enforced) movement of many people (mainly soldiers, but also refugees and POWs) across the world which helped to spread it about.

-bob1-

I agree what you say, but still, things like this should be handled very carefully.

One might wonder if it is really needed to do this kind of research the way they are doing it now.

My main point is more the awareness about things like this. Its often not the case in many researchers... it surprises me everyday how unknown most people are when it comes to general topics in science.... 

The interest in ethics or general issues is so low.. it frightens me sometimes.
 

What do you mean with the antibiotics? You mean to take care of bacterial infections in order to strengthen the soldiers so they would be less sensitive for the flu or?

 

I wonder whether there is a nice correlation between being sensitive to viruses and the use of antibiotics to take care of (underlying) bacterial infections that weaken one (and thus become more sensitive to viruses)

 

Of course there is controversy - it probably isn't absolutely necessary to recreate it, but it could be useful.  I would be highly surprised if there wasn't a variant of the 1918 flu floating around at the moment - it's known (IIRC) to have returned at least twice since the 1918 epidemic, and to have killed off fewer people each time, as a result of both some people being resistant due to exposure first or subsequent times around, and evolution of the strain.

 

Note that during the 1918 epidemic, much of the world was under a savage war, antibiotics were few and far between and hospital conditions were primitive compared to today, living conditions (as a part of the war) were horrendous (trench warfare) for many of the victims, and there was mass (enforced) movement of many people (mainly soldiers, but also refugees and POWs) across the world which helped to spread it about.

-pito-

Antibiotics to take care of the bacterial sequelae (mostly pneumonia) of the viral infection - and also as supportative care for those who now would be intubated and on parenteral nutrition etc, which often require suppression of the bacteria to prevent further infection.

 

Many of those that fought in the war and/or we affected by the war directly were in poor health due to cold, wet, and poor nutrition - all compounding factors in the lethality of the virus at the time.

-bob1-

Yes you are right.

 

But I do wonder if there are good studies on the effect of antibiotics for the treatment of viral infections. For example: many lung specialists (MDs) will give you antibiotics when you have a viral lung infection for the prevention of further bacterial infections however one might wonder about this reasoning. I have not yet found a lot of good studies in this.

 

Talking about the conditions in the war: this is of course a different topic and often antibiotics were indeed needed. Altough: again one might question this potential (over)use of antibiotics (that was standard therapy in many cases)

-pito-

I think it's the same idea of research when they created a modified version of H5N1 which is capable of airborne transmission and then even publishing (which is a for scientists of course fundamental) was highly controversial because of fears of bioterrorism or accidental releases (which would be not the first).

Anyway I wonder if the high risk is worth the results they get. From a molecular point of view I've not much idea, though to understand the mechanisms of infection it surely helps somehow. But working only with ferrets as lab animal makes it again questionable for me. And to model such pandemics from airborne pathogens and how to contain and control them, a lab is not sufficient and computer models are surely better.

-hobglobin-

It turns out that ferret's respiritory tract is pretty similar to ours and they are infected by the same influenza viruses that we are, so they are a pretty good model of how the disease progresses.

-bob1-

Imagine one of the animal handlers getting bitten by a ferret.

 

The question remains: is it really needed to do this kind of research? In this way? Its often said: you cant defeat a disease if you dont study the disease itself.

However: the disease is not present anymore, so why get it back from the grave? One might ask this question.

 

The same question is, at the moment, valid for the research on the Yersinia pestis bacterium at the moment that was (supposedly) the causative agent for the plague.

Should one really "revive" these bacteria to study them or leave them "dead"  ? A potential answer is given by some studies that state that the bacterium is still persistent in some areas and an outbreak might still be possible again.

However for a virsus its a bit different I think and I wonder if the "old" virus that caused the massive deaths could arise once more in the future.

 

 

It turns out that ferret's respiritory tract is pretty similar to ours and they are infected by the same influenza viruses that we are, so they are a pretty good model of how the disease progresses.

 

-pito-
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