Sunday, May 3, 2009

Emergency Antibody Method Being Tested For H1N1A

For the past week, teams in Chicago and Atlanta have been stocking up on supplies and waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to send them samples of blood from Mexican swine flu patients in hopes of creating an antibody to ward off the new strain of the flu virus.

Patrick Wilson of the University of Chicago and fellow vaccine expert Rafi Ahmed of Emory University in Atlanta, hope to develop a method to quickly make infection-fighting proteins called monoclonal antibodies. The specially engineered antibodies are immune system proteins that attach to invaders such as viruses and in effect able to neutralize the particular strain of influenza.

The journal Nature published a study last year about Wilson and Ahmed where they showed that with only a few tablespoons of blood, they were able to make influenza antibodies in as little as a month.

The hope is that these antibodies would be useful in protecting frontline workers and other high-risk persons to ward off the flu until a vaccine could be made should a pandemic arise.

Last Sunday, researchers at CDC asked the researchers to put this new technology to the test in the face of the outbreak of the strange new strain of the H1N1 flu virus (swine flu).

When they receive the blood samples, the teams will isolate a type of immune system cell known as antibody-secreting plasma cells, which produce a deluge of antibodies as part of an initial response to infection.

These cells will allow the researchers to begin making highly targeted antibodies against the new flu strain.

"Within a few weeks from the time we get the blood, we're likely to have something of value," said Wilson optimistically, adding that the antibodies would then be sent to the CDC for further testing to make sure they are able to block the virus from infecting cells grown in the lab.

Wilson said the CDC first plans to utilize the antibodies for making rapid diagnostic test kits that are able to quickly identify the new virus without sophisticated lab equipment to match its genetic sequence.

They hope to eventually make antibodies that can be injected into those who have been exposed to the virus.

"If they find some of these antibodies that are really good at neutralizing this flu, the potential is there to use it as a therapy," Wilson said.

According to Wilson, the antibody therapy is intended to provide only temporary immunity, but it can be made available much faster than a vaccine, which can take four to six months.

Officials are reporting that although almost all cases in other countries have been mild, the virus has killed up to 101 people in Mexico so far.


Friday, May 1, 2009

H1N1A: C continues to take aggressive action to respond to an expanding outbreak caused by H1N1A (swine flu). CDC’s response goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help health care providers, public health officials and the public address the challenges posed by this emergency.

CDC continues to issue and update interim guidance daily in response to the rapidly evolving situation. Early this morning, CDC provided interim guidance on school closures. Supplies from CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) are being sent to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak. In addition, the Federal Government and manufacturers have begun the process of developing a vaccine against this new virus.

Response actions are aggressive, but they may vary across states and communities depending on local circumstances. Communities, businesses, places of worship, schools and individuals can all take action to slow the spread of this outbreak. People who are sick are urged to stay home from work or school and to avoid contact with others, except to seek medical care. This action can avoid spreading illness further.

More news about H1N1A