FLU NEWS SCAN: H5N1 in Egyptian boy, GM chickens fight avian flu, China's H1N1 risk factors

Jan 13, 2011

10-year-old Egyptian boy infected with H5N1 virus
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed a new case of H5N1 avian flu in Egypt, in a 10-year-old boy from Giza governorate—the world's first official human case of H5N1 this year. The boy developed symptoms Jan 5, was hospitalized Jan 8, and is listed in stable condition. Egypt's Ministry of Health reported that he had been exposed to poultry. His is the first confirmed H5N1 case in Egypt since Jan 5, when the WHO confirmed four cases, including two deaths, but they were listed as 2010 cases based on the date of disease onset. The WHO has confirmed 120 Egyptian cases since 2006, 40 of which were fatal. The country now surpasses Vietnam for the word's second-highest H5N1 case count, behind Indonesia, which has 171 WHO-confirmed cases.
Jan 13 WHO update

Genetically modified chickens dampen H5N1 spread
UK scientists from Cambridge and Edinburgh universities have produced genetically modified (GM) chickens that decrease the spread of avian flu, according to a study published today in Science. The researchers developed transgenic chickens with a "short-hairpin RNA" designed to decoy avian flu viruses and thereby interrupt virus propagation. In one arm of the experiment, 10 GM chickens and 10 non-GM chickens were infected with a high dose of H5N1 avian flu virus, then placed with 10 uninfected ("contact") chickens. All infected chickens died, but only 2 of the 10 contact birds in the GM pen died within 6 days, compared with 7 that died within 5 days in the non-GM pen. A second arm of the study using lower doses of H5N1 produced similar results. "Chickens are potential bridging hosts that can enable new strains of flu to be transmitted to humans, said Dr. Laurence Tiley of the University of Cambridge, one of the study's authors, in a press release today. "Preventing virus transmission in chickens should reduce the economic impact of the disease and reduce the risk posed to people exposed to the infected birds. The genetic modification we describe is a significant first step along the path to developing chickens that are completely resistant to avian flu."
Jan 14 Science abstract
Jan 13 University of Cambridge press release

China's severe H1N1 risk factors resemble other countries
Chinese patients who were hospitalized for 2009 H1N1 infections had similar risk factors for severe infections as those in more developed countries, researchers reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Chronic medical conditions, pregnancy, and obesity stood out as risk factors, as they did in area such as the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. The study included 9,966 case-patients who were hospitalized from September 2009, after China stopped hospitalizing all confirmed 2009 H1N1 patients, through February 2010. They defined a severe infection as intensive care unit hospitalization or death. Though risk factors were similar to other countries, prevalence of chronic conditions and obesity were lower, probably because the prevalence of the conditions in the general Chinese population is lower, the researchers noted. In pregnant women, they found that women had the greatest risk of flu complications in the later trimesters and they linked multigravida pregnancy to an increased risk of severe 2009 H1N1 infection. Early oseltamivir (Tamiflu) treatment was associated with better outcomes, with a significantly increased risk of severe disease when the drug was started 5 or more days after illness onset.
Jan 10 Clin Infect Dis study

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