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Spanish flu


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#1 pito

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 09:41 AM

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/...3128(14)00163-2

 

 

For the short story: http://www.independe...us-9529707.html


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#2 bob1

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 01:02 PM

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.



#3 pito

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Posted 12 June 2014 - 09:30 PM

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.


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#4 bob1

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 01:19 AM

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.



#5 pito

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 02:46 AM

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.


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#6 bob1

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 06:17 PM

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.



#7 pito

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Posted 13 June 2014 - 11:07 PM

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)


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#8 hobglobin

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 01:53 AM

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.


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#9 bob1

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 02:12 PM

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.



#10 pito

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Posted 14 June 2014 - 03:02 PM

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.

 


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#11 Tabaluga

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 12:13 AM

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.

 

I think this type of research is done because they hope to gain valuable insights into the principles of virus or bacterial diseases, so even if a pathogen is no longer relevant today studying it can teach us a lot about how they work and how this type of diseases can be prevented/combatted. So I do think the results of research like this are, at best, highly applicably for today's medicine.

Wouldn't it be difficult to get these studies through ethics committees otherwise ?


Il dort. Quoique le sort fût pour lui bien étrange,
Il vivait. Il mourut quand il n'eut plus son ange;
La chose simplement d'elle-même arriva,
Comme la nuit se fait lorsque le jour s'en va.

 


#12 pito

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 01:08 AM

 

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.

 

I think this type of research is done because they hope to gain valuable insights into the principles of virus or bacterial diseases, so even if a pathogen is no longer relevant today studying it can teach us a lot about how they work and how this type of diseases can be prevented/combatted. So I do think the results of research like this are, at best, highly applicably for today's medicine.

Wouldn't it be difficult to get these studies through ethics committees otherwise ?

 

 

Of course! But the question remains: is it really needed to focus on ancient history while we are facing much bigger dangers?

(one might also argue: will things like this (being extinct) pose a threat or not? (its extinct for a reason often?)

 

And yes: ethical committees play a great role, the question is however whether those are always involved or not and if they are followed or not (governement funded vs non funded vs industry vs academical... )

We all know that weird things are sometimes happening in industry...

 

The thing is: one might decipher the mechanism of a virus/bacteria of X year ago , which is great, but is it (would it) be relevant for the future (the "now")? We all know those bugs evolve for a reason and that we are always running behind, trying to catch up....

 

 

 


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#13 bob1

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 01:03 PM

Yersinia pestis isn't extinct, there are still a number of cases of it every year in many countries around the world.  I think India has quite a number, but it is also reasonably common in the USA amongst people who go out into the back-country where they are exposed to rodents, to give the two extremes.

 

Y pestis and Smallpox (that is extinct in the wild - still stocks in 2 known labs (CDC and one in Russia) though, and may be more in other places) and quite a few other organisms have the potential to be weaponized - made much more lethal and used in biological warfare, which makes study of them important, as pretty much anyone working in isolation could have a go at weaponizing them without too much difficulty -success at it and dispersal are other matters, but even that isn't too hard with a bit of forethought and some people willing to sacrifice themselves.  So study of these variants of these organisms could be important if we want to know how it behaves in the host and effective treatments.

 

An anecdote that might inform this debate is:  One of the last known cases of smallpox in Australia (I think - I was told this by an Australian) was diagnosed correctly and put into a hospital bed in an isolation room - this room had a window that was near windows of other wards and this allowed the spread of smallpox to a number of people  who were quite physically removed from the index case.  This incident informed much of the now commonplace thinking about design of isolation rooms and behaviour in and around those rooms - lessons learned that might not have been otherwise so easily.



#14 pito

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Posted 15 June 2014 - 01:22 PM

Yersinia pestis isn't extinct, there are still a number of cases of it every year in many countries around the world.  I think India has quite a number, but it is also reasonably common in the USA amongst people who go out into the back-country where they are exposed to rodents, to give the two extremes.

 

Y pestis and Smallpox (that is extinct in the wild - still stocks in 2 known labs (CDC and one in Russia) though, and may be more in other places) and quite a few other organisms have the potential to be weaponized - made much more lethal and used in biological warfare, which makes study of them important, as pretty much anyone working in isolation could have a go at weaponizing them without too much difficulty -success at it and dispersal are other matters, but even that isn't too hard with a bit of forethought and some people willing to sacrifice themselves.  So study of these variants of these organisms could be important if we want to know how it behaves in the host and effective treatments.

 

An anecdote that might inform this debate is:  One of the last known cases of smallpox in Australia (I think - I was told this by an Australian) was diagnosed correctly and put into a hospital bed in an isolation room - this room had a window that was near windows of other wards and this allowed the spread of smallpox to a number of people  who were quite physically removed from the index case.  This incident informed much of the now commonplace thinking about design of isolation rooms and behaviour in and around those rooms - lessons learned that might not have been otherwise so easily.

I know its not extinct...

I was talking about the specific strain that caused the huge problems "back in the days". Its different from the ones we have now as a problem.

 

The anecdote , I get your point, but its in my opinion not relevant for this particular case.

 

 

Also: the smallpox story is different from the flu story...

 

Its not about studying dangerous organisms its about studying dangerous organisms that are "dead" (not "here" anymore , exceptions granted) and how you study them.

 

 

PS.: studying them because they might be used once as a weapon is pretty much useless in many cases because if they are used as a weapon they would have been mutated in such a way that the know/common treatments would not work.  (the knowledge gotten by studying it would aid, but would not be necessary in most cases because you have similar knowledge from other organisms)

+ they would take organisms that are hardly known

(we are talking about people that have pretty much unlimited funds/researchpotential in the case of bio-terrorism).
To battle against such organism one will need to have the organism first to set up the development of the correct anti X therapy.

You also have to keep in mind that there is still no therapy against so many deadly viruses (that are being studied for years) so one might argue that it would be better to put your money in the current problems and not in the "what if this would be a problem in the future" possible problems.

Especially in this case because its pretty much a non problem actually while now it may form a problem.

 

I am playing a little bit the advocate of the devil here.

 

To make it even worse in this entire discussion: what about the anti vaccination "hype" in the USA at the moment? In my opinion this is a bigger issue than trying to elucidate the principles of an old extinct virus.


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#15 bob1

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Posted 16 June 2014 - 03:04 AM

The anti-vaccine thing is a real worry - apparently a quite number of knidergartens and schools won't allow kids who haven't been vaccinated - which might convince a few parents to vaccinate.  Unfortunately it is happening all over the Western world.  I was recently at a conference where Prof Geoffrey Smith (on the world vaccine committe, vaccina virus expert), who said that if he had his way, it would be mandatory - it's been done before for smallpox, and it worked.  He thought that a number of common diseases (measles, rubella, polio (they're working on it) and a few others that i can't remember) could be completely eliminated if such measures were enforced.

 

Unfortunately the parents of the unvaccinated children have never been around when a lot of these diseases caused large numbers of deaths and serious illness each year, so they don't have any frame of reference.  Personally I'd like to inoculate them with something like measles and see how they like it...

 

 

Anyway, back to the debate on re-creation of "dead" diseases -

[quote]

studying them because they might be used once as a weapon is pretty much useless in many cases because if they are used as a weapon they would have been mutated in such a way that the know/common treatments would not work.  (the knowledge gotten by studying it would aid, but would not be necessary in most cases because you have similar knowledge from other organisms)

+ they would take organisms that are hardly known

(we are talking about people that have pretty much unlimited funds/researchpotential in the case of bio-terrorism).
To battle against such organism one will need to have the organism first to set up the development of the correct anti X therapy.

[/quote]

Yes, I know, though for antibody based therapies would be pretty hard to develop an organism without the respective antigens.

It is also about money - combatting "terrorism" or potential terrorism is an easy way to get money out of politicians...grant writing anyone?

 

[quote]

You also have to keep in mind that there is still no therapy against so many deadly viruses (that are being studied for years) so one might argue that it would be better to put your money in the current problems and not in the "what if this would be a problem in the future" possible problems.

Especially in this case because its pretty much a non problem actually while now it may form a problem.

[\quote]

This bit is all about politics - it's not a problem now, so there isn't money... there will be money when it is a problem.  "Dealing with it now would cost too much" sort of thinking, despite the fact that stopping it early would be much easier than letting it get established.

 

The big viruses coming are West Nile virus, Chickungunya virus, and Dengue, though it seems most of those arthropod borne ones are starting to be real threats.






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