Fewer people caught the flu this season compared with past years. And many more apps tracking the flu have been developed. Any relationship between these two trends?
What if an invisible digital nurse or a doctor-in-the-pocket could take detailed notes about your physiology, psychology, symptoms and activities, and record the precise ingredients in your foods? And what if this digital nurse also could simultaneously collect information about your environment, including the weather, air quality, allergens and even disease outbreaks near your location?
Aurametrix personal health management system is a breakthrough analysis tool that accelerates the process of identifying environmental variables (such as food, drugs, what we wear, indoor environment or the weather) that influence human health. The web-based solution is targeted for use by people who experience food sensitivities, allergies, or metabolic disorders, or who want to improve their diet and exercise to maximize their wellbeing.
The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is an RNA virus coding for 8 genes. The sequences of these genes from strains isolated in Texas, California, New York and Kansas can be downloaded from GenBank:
Another collection of isolates with bioinformatics tools to explore the genes can be found at http://www.flugenome.org, but this resource is not updated with the current data and can’t be used for genotyping of the latest sequences. Check also GISAID Platform at: http://platform.gisaid.org/ and EpiFlu resource.
Parts of the 2009 flu virus are remarkably similar to human H1N1 viruses circulating in the early 20th century. The influenza virion (infectious form) is roughly spherical, it has the outer lipid layer taken from the host cell in which the virus multiplies. Inserted into the lipid membrane are ‘spikes’, which are glycoproteins (proteins linked to sugars) – known as HA (hemagglutinin) and NA (neuraminidase). Also embedded in the lipid membrane is the M2 protein, which is the target of the antiviral adamantanes – amantadine and rimantadine.
The genome is a composite of avian flu, human flu Type A, human flu Type B, Asian swine flu, and European swine flu. A strange combination having less than 0.1% chance of being a natural event. Most of the genes, including the hemagglutinin (HA) gene, are of the same family as seen in US pigs in the last decade, but the neuraminidase (NA) and matrix (M) protein genes are more like swine flu viruses seen in Eurasia. Other chunks of the genome came from influenza viruses carried by birds and humans. Novel swine flu isolates are resistant to the older antiviral adamantane class of drugs (M2 inhibitors), but sensitive to the adamantanes. Two anti-viral drugs on the market – Tamiflu and Relenza –can lessen the symptoms of swine flu.
Take a look at the BLAST results of 8 NA sequences coding for the protein targeted by drugs oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Perfect alignment to european swine flu sequences, minimal variations. The bird viruses come second best. Taking into account that bird flu easily developed resistance to the above mentioned drugs, and that vaccine development will be a challenge, this does not sound too good.
Flu viruses are growing resistant to key weapon Tamiflu This year, Tamiflu resistance in that class of viruses has reached almost 100%, turning the tables on a drug designed to defeat resistance. A CDC team tested 1,155 A/H1N1 viruses from 45 states. They found that 142 viruses from 24 states were resistant to Tamiflu, or 12.3%. Earlier this year, 264 of 268 viruses tested were Tamiflu-resistant, or 98.5%, reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
CDC expects we will see more deaths. From a historical perspective, this is, indeed, scary: Asian Flu pandemic of 1957 and the Hong Kong Flu pandemic of 1968 occurred as a result of influenza mutated by antigenic shift, recombination similar to the one observed for current swine flu outbreak. Missense mutations account for other milder epidemics (1962, 1964, etc). The human swine flu outbreak continues to grow in the United States and internationally. So is it going to be a Worldwide Pandemic or a Case of the Sniffles? Let’s hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.