nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

If You Contracted Swine Flu, You May Be Ahead Of The Game

There's some lab data that suggests those who caught the H1N1 have broader immunity to other strains than those who took the vaccine and didn't contract the disease.

This study appeared in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (Jan 10).  This is from the abstract:
"we report a detailed analysis of plasmablast and monoclonal antibody responses induced by pandemic H1N1 infection in humans. Unlike antibodies elicited by annual influenza vaccinations, most neutralizing antibodies induced by pandemic H1N1 infection were broadly cross-reactive against epitopes in the hemagglutinin (HA) stalk and head domain of multiple influenza strains. The antibodies were from cells that had undergone extensive affinity maturation. Based on these observations, we postulate that the plasmablasts producing these broadly neutralizing antibodies were predominantly derived from activated memory B cells specific for epitopes conserved in several influenza strains."
For the hyped version, you can read the BBC News health blog (Jan 10). who reported the study as suggesting
"People who recover from swine flu may be left with an extraordinary natural ability to fight off flu viruses."
I hope you can see the difference.  The research is saying that there's a cellular and antibody response when you get the disease that can cross-react with strains of H1N1 itself that are slightly different from the original virus, and with H5N1.  It doesn't say that they tested all one thousand existing strains of influenza virus in people who had swine flu.  Probably, they won't get H1N1 or its variants again for some time.

While the news article says that "Doctors hope to harness this power to make a universal flu vaccine that would protect against any type of influenza,"  the researchers say that,  "This suggests that a pan-influenza vaccine may be possible, given the right immunogen."

They state the potential of their research in a more cautious way because (1) having antibodies doesn't mean they work well; they tested them only in mice, (2) getting from a positive lab result to an effect in human disease is a leap that most lab results never accomplish, and (3) they don't know if this cross-reactivity from H1N1 disease is something unique, or generalizable to all flu viruses.

Lastly, given that flu mutates almost every year, it would be challenging for a "universal" vaccine to keep up.

Scientists have been announcing the imminent development of a malaria vaccine for about one hundred years now, and we don't have it.  [BTW, know the difference between eminent, imminent, and immanent?]

So, let's all breath into a paper bag...then, wait for more data to see if this project can go anywhere.

Doc D

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