Updated: 2009-11-26 02:47
BEIJING: Genetic mutation had been detected in eight A/H1N1 flu cases on the Chinese mainland, an official with the Chinese National Influenza Center said here Wednesday.
Shu Yuelong, director of the center, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Health, said in an interview that the mutated virus was not resistant to drugs and could be prevented by vaccines.
According to Shu, the first mutated strain of the A/H1N1 flu was discovered in June this year in an imported case from Britain. Similar strain was detected three months later in Zhejiang Province.
The health department of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) announced one human swine influenza (HSI) virus which had the same mutation as the one detected in Norway recently.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), same mutation had been found in other countries including Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine and the United States.
“Mutations were almost inevitable in influenza viruses,” Shu said.
In early 2003, at a time when SARS was burning its way through parts of China and the Chinese government actively hid that information from its people, its doctors, and the rest of the world, one man boldly went before the TV cameras and told the truth.
That man was Zhong Nanshan, director ofGuangzhou’s Institute of Respiratory Diseases and a member of China’s Academy of Sciences.
Zhong did something that isn’t normally conducive to good health and long life in China . . . he publicly challenged official government statements.
In doing so, Zhong Nanshan became a much respected and revered household name in China. And since that time, he has repeatedly voiced his opinions, even when they contradict the `official line’ of the Chinese government.
Last week Zhong publicly questioned the official death toll from the H1N1 virus (see Zhong Nanshan On China’s Death Toll), which brought a response 24 hours later from the Health Ministry, promising to punish anyone caught hiding fatalities.
Today, Reuters has a long and very informative article regarding his concerns over the possible reassortment of the pandemic H1N1 virus with H5N1 bird flu.
Reassortment occurs when two compatible viruses infect the same host (human, pig, bird, etc.) at the same time, and swap genetic material. This can produce a hybrid virus, with parts of both viral donors.
While we know reassortments happen, and they have caused pandemics in the past, we really don’t know how likely it is that the H5N1 virus will mix with H1N1 and produce a biologically `fit’ hybrid; one that replicates well and is easily transmissible.
Obviously biologically fit reassortments don’t happenvery often, else we’d be hip deep in new viruses all the time.
But while speculative, when Zhong Nanshan is worried, one would be wise not to dismiss the idea.
He isn’t alone, by the way. Other scientists have publicly worried over the possibility. You may recall a recent blog regarding Alan Sipress’s column in the Washington Post Alan Sipress: Playing chicken with a nightmare flu .
Follow the link to read the entire article
Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:29pm IST
By Stefanie McIntyre
HONG KONG (Reuters) – China must be alert to any mutation or changes in the behavior of the H1N1 swine flu virus because the far deadlier H5N1 bird flu virus is endemic in the country, a leading Chinese disease expert said.
Zhong Nanshan, director of the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Diseases in China’s southern Guangdong province, said the presence of both viruses in China meant they could mix and become a monstrous hybrid — a bug packed with strong killing power that can transmit efficiently among people.
“China, as you know, is different from other countries. Inside China, H5N1 has been existing for some time, so if there is really a reassortment between H1N1 and H5N1, it will be a disaster,” Zhong said in an interview with Reuters Television.
“This is something we need to monitor, the change, the mutation of the virus. This is why reporting of the death rate must be really transparent.”
The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday that H5N1 had erupted in poultry in Egypt, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, posing once again a threat to humans.
“First, it places those in direct contact with birds — usually rural folk and farm workers — at risk of catching the often-fatal disease. Second, the virus could undergo a process of “reassortment” with another influenza virus and produce a completely new strain,” it said.
“The most obvious risk is of H5N1 combining with the pandemic … (H1N1) virus, producing a flu virus that is as deadly as the former and as contagious as the latter.”
(thanks to my flu buddy and newshound Bev for sending that.-cottontop)
• Helen Branswell – GSK says still no answer on whether H1N1 vaccine batch triggers more reaction (Link)
• Japan to send experts to Canada over flu vaccine reactions (Link)
• Baltic states swine flu death toll rises (Link)
• Swine flu fears for hajj pilgrims (Link)
• Ill Man with A(H1N1) Flu Virus Dies in Prievidza Hospital (Link)
• Confirmation of death of 4 yr old girl from H1N1 (Link)
• Scotland has 3 more deaths, 43 total now (Link)
• US: CDC says that the rates of ‘invasive pneumonia’ tripled in Oct vs 5 yr averages in Denver metro (log in required) (Link)
• Decoding the turkey’s genetic gobbledygook (Link)
• FL: New mom in coma w/ H1N1, newborn survived 5 days (Link)
• IL: 2000 hospitalizations from H1N1 and 389 new hospitalized (Link)
• IN: 33 of 35 deaths from flu so far are confirmed H1N1 (Link)
• MN: Minnesota news reports seem inconsistent now (Link)
• MN: Six Duluth deaths associated with H1N1 (Link)
• NM: Two Deaths In Eastern New Mexico Linked To H1N1 (Link)
• OR: only 17 more hospitalizations since yesterday, no new deaths (Link)
• OR: Oregon Hospitalizations up 22 in four days and 4 new deaths (Link)
• PA: (7) New Deaths on PA DOH Website for 11.25.09 (Link)
• TX: 2 more deaths confirmed in El Paso (Link)
• UT: Utah confirmed another death and 72 more hospitalizations last week (Link)
• WHO: Possible Tamiflu resistance (translated) (Link)
• Biological H1N1 Vaccines: Too Little, Too Late (Link)
• Drug-resistant swine flu probed (Link)
• The Hajj: A perfect storm for swine flu? (Link)
• Recombinomics: D225G Ukraine Norway Link and China Spread (Link)