Humans may be immune to bird flu
Ever since an outbreak of bird flu in south east Asia
spread to neighbouring regions in 2004, scientists have been concerned that the
H5N1 strain of avian influenza could signal a new pandemic among
Research on mice and humans found natural resistance
to flu strains that people are typically exposed to could be translated into
immunity against bird flu
Researchers from the St Jude's Children's Research
Hospital say that due to the fact seasonal human flu (H1N1) and bird flu contain
a closely related neuraminidase (N1)
, a disease spreading agent, many people immune to the former
could have a similar resistance to the latter.
Researchers tested blood samples from 38 human volunteers and their ability
to inactivate neuraminidase from the human N1 virus and two H5N1 viruses. Most
of the samples were active against the protein from the human flu virus, with
eight of nine inhibiting the protein from both H5N1 strains.
The conclusion was that many people may be naturally immune to the effects
of avian influenza.
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has dubbed the
research a "tantalising suggestion", but cautions that further work is needed to
demonstrate there is actual protection in humans against avian flu.
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