Tuesday, April 04, 2006

New scientific findings on bird flu. Come again?

Here's a story from Australian Broadcasting Company that doesn't make any sense. ABC reports that Oxford University's flu expert, Menno de Jong (also head of the clinical research unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam) will report to the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases annual scientific meeting that bird flu patients have more of the virus in their throat and nose than people with the seasonal flu strains.
He found the virus is often associated with disseminated infection in blood and faeces, and with higher levels of viral replication in the nasopharynx compared with contemporary Vietnamese influenza cases.


"Our main findings are that influenza H5N1 seems to be characterised by high virus levels in the respiratory tract, evidence suggesting disseminated infection [virus detection in blood and rectum] and [likely as a result of this] an intense inflammatory response," de Jong says.

High levels of viral replication are likely to play a role in determining a patient's outcome by direct effects of the virus or by the inflammatory response to the virus, he says.

"The reason for the high mortality probably is not high replication rates per se, but high replication rates of an extremely virulent virus," he says. (ABC)
This runs counter to the findings in Nature and Science two weeks ago (post here) that reported receptors for avian virus deep in the lung. But then there's this:
De Jong says avian-type cell receptors being mostly in the lower respiratory tract could explain why bird flu does not spread among humans, as reported in the journal Nature recently.

This may explain why viral load seems higher in the throat than nose, and why all infected developed pneumonia, he says.
Huh? Maybe it makes sense to someone, but not to me. Either the reporter got this badly garbled or she left out some important stuff. We look forward to hearing a clearer scientific story. Did any of our readers attend the meeting and hear what was said?