Is influenza A (H1N1) as fatal as the 1957 pandemic?

ScienceDaily (May 12, 2009) Early findings about the emerging pandemic of a new strain of influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico are published in the journal Science.

Researchers from the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, working in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and public health agencies in Mexico, have assessed the epidemic using data to the end of April. Their key findings are as follows:

  • The data so far is very consistent with what researchers would expect to find in the early stages of a pandemic.
  • The researchers’ best estimate is that in Mexico, influenza A (H1N1) is fatal in around 4 in 1,000 cases, which would make this strain of influenza as lethal as the one found in the 1957 pandemic. The researchers stress that healthcare has greatly improved in most countries since 1957 and the world is now better prepared.
  • The epidemic of influenza A (H1N1) is thought to have started in Mexico on 15 February 2009. The data suggests that by the end of April, around 23,000 people were infected with the virus in Mexico and 91 of these died as a result of infection. However, the figures are uncertain – for example, some mild cases may have gone unreported. The numbers infected could be as low as 6,000 people or as high as 32,000 people.
  • The uncertainty around the numbers of people who have been infected with influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico means that the case fatality ratio (CFR) of 0.4% (4 deaths per 1000) cannot be definitely established. The CFR is in the range of 0.3% to 1.5%, but at this stage the researchers believe that 0.4% is the most likely.
  • For every person infected, it is likely that there will be between 1.2 and 1.6 secondary cases. This is high compared to normal seasonal influenza, where around 10-15 percent of the population are likely to become infected. However, it is lower than would be expected for pandemic influenza, where 20-30 percent of the population are likely to become infected.
  • In an outbreak in an isolated village called La Gloria, Mexico, children were twice as likely to become infected as adults, with 61% of those aged under 15 becoming infected, compared with 29% of those over 15. This may suggest that adults have some degree of immunity against infection, because of having been previously infected with a related strain of influenza, or it may mean that children are more susceptible to infection because they interact much more closely together, for example in school, than adults.

Professor Neil Ferguson, the corresponding author of the new research from the MRC Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, said: “Our study shows that this virus is spreading just as we would expect for the early stages of a flu pandemic. So far, it has been following a very similar pattern to the flu pandemic in 1957, in terms of the proportion of people who are becoming infected and the percentage of potentially fatal cases that we are seeing.

“What we’re seeing is not the same as seasonal flu and there is still cause for concern – we would expect this pandemic to at least double the burden on our healthcare systems. However, this initial modelling suggests that the H1N1 virus is not as easily transmitted or as lethal as that found in the flu pandemic in 1918,” added Professor Ferguson.

Journal reference:

  1. Christophe Fraser, Christl A. Donnelly, Simon Cauchemez, William P. Hanage, Maria D. Van Kerkhove, T. Déirdre Hollingsworth, Jamie Griffin, Rebecca F. Baggaley, Helen E. Jenkins, Emily J. Lyons, Thibaut Jombart, Wes R. Hinsley, Nicholas C. Grassly, Francois Balloux, Azra C. Ghani, Neil M. Ferguson, Andrew Rambaut, Oliver G. Pybus, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, Celia M Apluche-Aranda, Ietza Bojorquez Chapela, Ethel Palacios Zavala, Dulce Ma. Espejo Guevara, Francesco Checchi, Erika Garcia, Stephane Hugonnet, Cathy Roth The WHO Rapid Pandemic Assessment Collaboration. Pandemic Potential of a Strain of Influenza A (H1N1): Early Findings. Science, 11 May 2009 DOI: 10.1126/science.1176062
Adapted from materials provided by Imperial College London, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.
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George W. Bush: Will he be Prosecuted for Murder?

Now this is something I wouldn’t mind to see come true. Accused for 4,000 US american dead during HIS war in Iraq.

Challenging Establishement: Is it so Unnatural?

I figured out I had to make a post about this due to all the trends lately happening on the internet and sadly NOT (unsurprisingly) on the mass media .

If we say we know how the world and our society works, we don’t know how it works. Just like Feynman said about quantum mechanics.

In this new millennium I feel there are challenges made upon our established institution, possibly driven by our inquisitive and critical mind when focusing on the strange events taken place in the last 100 years or so.

Read the rest of this entry »

I have faith, therefore, I have less pain.

Scientists discover brain area linked to pain resistance during intense religious experiences

A beautiful girl (Inês) show me this fantastic study, that perhaps can explain why people believe in religion. I’m not a religious person but I have to admit that religion can be important in pain evolution. The research, to be published in the next edition of the journal Pain¹, reveals, for the first time, that religion-associated pain resistance is linked to the activation of the brain right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), an area associated with both cognitive down-regulation of pain and reassessment of the emotional meaning of an experience – for example by giving a neutral or even positive meaning to a noxious experience, and so making it much easier to cope with. The research contributes for a better understanding of pain coping mechanisms, and, consequently, can put us closer to new and better therapies for pain, but also might help to comprehend how cultural influences, such as religion, can affect the development and use of the different parts of the brain. And it does give an extra meaning to the saying “faith helps through life’s pains”.

It is known that the brain can control the way we feel about pain – the more we fear it, for example, the more unbearable it does seem – or even our unconscious perception of it as shown by the often very high pain threshold of chronic patients. To understand how this is achieved is of major importance if we consider the devastating effects of chronic pain, not only to patients’ quality of life, but also as an economic burden to society. In an attempt to find the link between brain and pain control, Katja Wiech, Miguel Farias, Irene Tracey and colleagues from the departments of Anaesthetics, Clinical Neurology, Theology, Ethics and Philosophy at the University of Oxford and the Psychology and Religion Research Group at the University of Cambridge decided to look into a widely reported but poorly understood phenomenon – alterations of pain perception observed during intense religious experiences.

For that, the researchers used 12 practicing Catholics and 12 non-religious voluntaries, submitting both groups to an electrical shock, during which they were shown either a religious or a non-religious image, and while registering their brain activity. After this the subjects were asked to record the intensity of the pain felt during the pulse, as well as their like/dislike for each of the images. The pictures chosen – a painting of the Virgin Mary called ‘‘Vergine annunciate” by Sassoferrato and ‘‘Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci as the non-religious control – were aesthetically very similar.

brain-experiment

Interestingly, it was found that the religious group reported much less pain if watching the Virgin Mary during the electrical stimulus, despite the fact that both groups had, previously, been shown to have similar pain sensitivity. When commenting on the images, the Catholic subjects, as expected, expressed a higher liking for the Virgin Mary, while the non-religious group preferred the da Vinci’s print and even had negative feelings towards the Virgin. These observations support the idea that the changes in pain perception were linked to the religious content of the Virgin image, and not the result of a preference towards an image, since the non-religious group had no pain scores’ changes while watching its preferred da Vinci’s image.

brain1

Further supporting the hypothesis, when the voluntaries’ brains were analysed during the experiment by functional MRI – which registers blood oxygen variations in the central nervous system, with the areas of high activity showing high(er) levels of oxygen –, it revealed high activation of the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex in the religious voluntaries, again, in the presence of the Virgin. The atheist/agnostic group, on the other hand, showed no changes in that area at any moment. All individuals showed activation of the striatum, an area linked to pain perception.

VLPFC activation is known to be linked to reassessment of the emotional evaluation of experiences, so in this case, the researchers propose that the religious state, induced during the experiment with Catholics and the Virgin image, leads to a reassessment of the pain, giving it new more positive meaning and, in this way, diminishing its association with suffering. This is supported, not only by the fact that none of the non-religious subjects registered changes in the pain scoring, but also by the religious content comments of the Catholic group when describing their feelings in front of the image of the Virgin Mary: “… feeling calmed down and peaceful”, ‘‘…taken care of”, “…felt compassion and support”.

In conclusion,  and as consequence of an intense devout state induced by observing the religious image, the pain of the Catholics seems to be no longer associated with suffering but, instead, perfectly bearable and, in other more extreme cases probably even seen as a blessing, like the Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) seems to say in a letter to her daughter:

“Very pleasing to Me, dearest daughter, is the willing desire to bear every pain and fatigue, even unto death, for the salvation of souls, for the more the soul endures, the more she shows that she loves Me; loving Me she comes to know more of My truth…”

Wiech,  and colleagues’ work reveals, for the first time, the neurological basis behind altered pain sensitivity during intense religious experiences. Although their hypothesis of pain reassessment meaning during religious experiences needs further investigation to be confirmed, these results are undoubtedly an important first step towards a better understanding of the neural mechanisms associated with pain control and, as such, in the direction of better pain coping treatments. And these can include, not only drugs targeting activation of brain areas associated with pain resistance, but even cognitive therapies based on the induction of similar emotional states to those produced by religion.

¹ Pain – Vol 4, 147-158 August
“An fMRI study measuring analgesia enhanced by religion as a belief system”

Katja Wiech – kwiech@fmrib.ox.ac.uk

Link to the original paper/URL–
http://www.painjournalonline.com/article/S0304-3959(08)00421-1/abstract

The War Against Disease

In this post I will make and update a compilation of animations depicting the mechanism of action of diverse human afflicting diseases. These disease especialy inflict large casualties in the developing countries either by lack of clean water, sanitation or information. The World could erradicate them with the extremely advanced technology the industrialized countries possess but they are most surely unwilling to do so.

HIV Life Cycle MoA

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Dengue viral cell entry MoA

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Malaria Parasite Life Cycle

Part 1

Part 2

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Pseudomonas Cell Killer in Action

Baby Screened to be Cancer Gene Free

Suddenly in my search in the net I fond this article wrote by Emily Singer, I thought to myself: is it right, or wrong? Can this kind of genetic manipulation bring other consequences to the child? Making knock-outs some times are very problematic because we are “touching” in our genes, and sometimes complications are caused by these techniques. This is the main problem of Genetic Therapy and genetic manipulation, and I even don’t talk about ethic problematic that our friends from USA are experts! In my opinion it’s a step in front, but if you want to know if I take this option to a future child of mine, my answer is no. And you?

The first baby in Britain to have been screened as an embryo for a genetic variation, called BRCA1, which greatly raises risk of breast cancer, has been born, according to recent news report. Because several members of the infant’s father’s family had been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age, the parents decided to undergo IVF and screen their embryos for the mutation before implanting them.

The decision was a controversial one, raising arguments that this type of screening is one step on a slippery slope towards eugenics. Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, as the procedure is called, has traditionally been limited to genetic disorders known to be fatal. But as the number of known disease-linked genes grows, so do the options for testing. BRCA1 raises a women’s risk of developing breast cancer to about 80 percent, but does not guarantee that she will develop the disease.

The event has garnered extensive press in the UK, where in vitro fertilization is highly regulated; the governing body that oversees fertility only recently voted to allow this kind of screening. But in the US, where reproductive technologies are largely unregulated, such cases may already be occurring regularly. A fertility specialist I spoke with for a review published in the March 2007 issue of TR, said his lab had tested embryos for more than 150 diseases or risk genes, including the BRCA1 variant.

Little data exists on the rates of this type of testing in the U.S., one of the few developed countries with so little regulation. Sex-selection, for example, is not outlawed, though most fertility clinics say they consider it ethically questionable and decline such requests. Any disease or trait for which a genetic risk factor has been identified–one that predicts athletic prowess, for example–could theoretically be screened for, and the number is growing daily.