Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Of Pigs and Flu

There's been some press recently about the recent report by the CDC of two children recently infected with swine influenza. Two children, without any discernible link to either pigs or each other, independently presented within a week of each other in San Diego with flu-like illness. Both were tested for influenza, found to be unsubtypable (not one of the common subtypes that we test against routinely), and sent off to the CDC for further testing, where it was found to be swine influenza, H1N1. Both children got better with supportive care.

There's a number of reasons why this is notable:
-all documented cases of swine influenza in humans over the past few years in the US have come with a documented exposure to swine. If this represents human-to-human transmission of the virus, then it's a feature of this particular virus that would be novel
-this is a novel virus, in that it's combination of genes are unique amongst influenza viruses in various databases around the world. Another example of the mutability of the influenza virus, it's likely a combination of known avian, human, and swine viruses.
-they are resistant to one of the major classes of anti-virals, and testing for the other class is underway

The main implications are that we need to constantly be vigilant against the flu, not just the seasonal variety. Also, surveillance systems like through which we obtained the data about these two cases are crucial, in all parts of the world, to try and get a step ahead of these constantly adapting viruses.

Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Infection in Two Children --- Southern California, March--April 2009 CDC Dispatch.

Centers for Disease Control (2009).

1 comment:

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