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Scientists have discovered a potential reason to explain why the H5N1 strain of bird flu is so much more deadly to people than standard human flus….

The Nature Medicine research found that the bird flu virus triggers a massive inflammatory response, which often proved fatal…. It was found that the patients infected with H5N1 had much higher viral loads in the throat than those patients infected with the human flu virus.

…the presence of high levels of H5N1 virus triggered a release of proteins called cytokines which should control a body’s response to infection…. In these cases there was also an associated loss of lymphocytes (types of white blood cell) in the peripheral blood. The team suggest it is these factors which lead to lung damage, and on many occasions, death.


Study Adds Details on Bird Flu, Humans, By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
AP Science Writer

September 10, 2006, 1:26 PM EDT

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When bird flu infects people, the virus is more concentrated in the throat than the nose, the opposite of human flu. This finding may help doctors more quickly diagnose the bird flu in people….

Menno de Jong of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, reports in Monday’s issue of Nature Medicine that people with bird flu had much higher levels of the virus in their throat than in their nose….

It is also important that physicians can detect the virus in diarrhea and other rectal secretions. This is one more way the disease can spread and shows the need for infection-control measures, de Jong said in an interview via e-mail. …

In inflammation, the body’s immune system causes blood vessels to allow chemicals and blood cells to leak into an infected area, designed to attack the infection, but an over-response can cause harm.

“Extensive damage to the lungs and possibly other organs are likely caused by both the direct effects of the virus as well as by the intense inflammatory response to the virus by the infected individual,” de Jong said….

Nature Medicine: