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New Study Finds Flu Virus "Paralyzes" Immune System 84

Posted by timothy
from the now-that's-just-stunning dept.
mmmscience writes with this excerpt from Examiner.com: "A study coming out of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has found that the influenza virus manages to dysregulate the immune system, allowing other infections to thrive in the body. This discovery, coming at an opportune time as the world battles the new H1N1 flu outbreak, may be the first step in understanding why the flu can cause such high mortality rates in normally healthy individuals."
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New Study Finds Flu Virus "Paralyzes" Immune System

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  • by idontgno (624372)
    The stunlock hemo rogue of viruses
  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:45AM (#27831793) Homepage
    Are there symbiotic relationships between the flu and pneumonia (or other) bacteria - where they travel together. This would allow the flu to break down the guard, bacteria to move in - and then both to be spread by the next sneeze or nose-wipe-doorhandle-grab.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by omris (1211900)

      I would guess that it's more coincidence than symbiosis. Most of the things that an influenza virus would find helpful would also be helpful to, say, Streptococcus pneumoniae. Since most infectious organisms are vulnerable to similar immune system defenses, shutting them down just sort of accidentally helps out everyone.

      But you could make the argument that these organisms evolved similarities to take advantage of just such strategies. Chicken or egg and all that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apparently, Ronnie Michael Smith at the Foundation for Studying Flu discovered this - it's called Glandular Proto-immune Limitation syndrome. Swine Flu is the third variant to be discovered so far, and by far the most pernicious, because it is immune to usual antivirals. It causes most fatailities among those of employable age but who get only limited excercise, with crippling consequences for businesses that do not take extreme measures to exclude it from their buildings.

      Quoting RMS, "We at the FSF have cr

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That's a Chess move on my 16x16 board. I feel offended!

  • by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @10:48AM (#27831861) Homepage Journal

    may be the first step in understanding why the flu can cause such high mortality rates in normally healthy individuals

    They speak generally about "the flu", but then use the extreme outliers of the Spanish flu of 1918, and the worst fears of the H1N1 virus, as their examples.

    My understanding was that the flu virus hits the immuno-compromised much harder -- the young and the elderly being the most at risk, with it being a day or two off work for people with normal immune systems.

    H1N1 is getting a lot of attention primarily because it was outside of the norm for the flu, hitting healthy individuals hard in Mexico, although not repeating that behaviour elsewhere.

    • by Chlorine Trifluoride (1517149) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:03AM (#27832091)
      Flu does hit them much harder, but the reason that the Spanish flu killed some many young, healthy people was because it launched a cytokine storm, something that was replicated in H5N1 (remember that?). So far, H1N1 does not seem to do this, although TFA suggests that it might.
      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:11PM (#27833367) Homepage
        Actually, TFA didn't say much at all (surprise). Cytokine Storm [wikipedia.org] has been a term used to describe the results of influenza on the immune system for some time now. The fact that it triggers the Toll-like receptor proteins [wikipedia.org] isn't particularly surprising.I'm really not sure What the Big Deal TFA is supposed to be announcing. We already know this stuff and have known it for some time.

        Of course, this could be Nobel quality research and it would be hard to tell, but I'm not getting all warm and fuzzies here....
        • TFA doesn't say that a cytokine storm occurs, but it does say that the levels are elevated. My uneducated speculation is that this could be caused by a cytokine positive feedback loop occuring, but being stopped by H1N1s immune system attacking properties.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Obispus (803786)
          You don't seem to have understood TFA. A cytokine storm consists of an excess of cytokines, and study participants were indeed found to have elevated cytokine levels, presumably as a the response to the flu virus--although not at the point of actual storms occurring. Concentrations of toll-like receptors were found to be lower than normal, therefore indicating an immune system less resilient to other opportunistic pathogens (e.g., bacteria) that might ultimately cause the death of the patient.
      • Instead of vaccinating or using Anti-Virals (like Tamiflu) is there a way to suppress the Cytokine storm in young adults? I'm not for using immuno-suppressants if that is what it needs but I'm suggesting to inhibit such a reaction (Cytokine Storm) over the short period of time that the flu lasts?

      • If you look at the CDC Research [cdc.gov], the major cause of death wasn't actually cytokine storms, but secondary bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, which could be extra-fatal because the immune system was busy dealing with the flu. These days, we have antibiotics which can actually treat those bacterial infections, and there are also vaccines for pneumonia which may be helpful.

        Also, another major reason that so many young healthy people died was because the propagation vector was US soldiers returning from W

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@cCOWornell.edu minus herbivore> on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:09AM (#27832207) Homepage

      Actually the problem with the 1918 flu virus was that it had unusually high mortality rates for people with strong immune systems.

      The reasoning was that a lot of people died not from the infection itself, but from an *excessive immune response* (cytokine storm).

      The whole swine flu paranoia is getting out of hand, especially since so far the actual severity of the swine flu is nowhere near what people are making it out to be. I now have to eat offsite at work because all of the food that I like to eat has been pulled from the cafeteria (all self-serve foods have been pulled except prepackaged items, I almost always eat a build-your-own sandwich and a cookie).

      Funny thing is, as a Type I diabetic, who is at unusually high risk for problems if I catch influenza, I'm far more worried about the health effects of this damn menu change than the possibility I might catch H1N1.

      • by Andy Dodd (701)

        P.S. Yes, I know I shouldn't be eating that cookie, but I've gotten good at calculating the insulin required for it. The other "unknown" items I normally don't eat are a whole other story.

      • by smchris (464899)

        Exactly, cytokine storm in 1918. Why it killed people of typical military age with strong immune systems. And why this is nothing like that and a mass hysteria.

        I would say it is our media distracting us from the depression, Wall Street theft and war crimes, but the BBC and BFM-TV, Paris, are running it a lot too. I think we are seeing the sociological phenomenon of a genuine global mass hysteria of an interesting kind that is being fueled by the media. Maybe it is less threatening to get hysterical over

        • Let them go nuts. The common slashdotter will be sitting at home relaxing (a.k.a. coding in the basement) and waiting it out.

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      hitting healthy individuals hard in Mexico, although not repeating that behaviour elsewhere.

      The suppression of the immune system might explain the greater toll in Mexico compared to other countries. The other countries might be doing a better job at otherwise preventing exposure to the secondary diseases.

      Going by AIDS - HIV doesn't kill you, it's the opportunistic diseases that would be otherwise controlled by the immune system that kills you.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Going by AIDS - HIV doesn't kill you, it's the opportunistic diseases that would be otherwise controlled by the immune system that kills you.

        Actually, HIV does kill you, if nothing else gets you first. It'll simply take long enough that the opportunistic diseases will usually finish you off first.

  • I find it interesting that a virus essentially shuts down the hosts ability to protect itself essentially killing the host. The more deadly the virus often the least likely it's able to spread. Even spreading, the majority of the virus inside the host will die. It reminds me of the story of the Scorpion and the frog, where the frog carries the scorpion across only to be stung halfway across dooming them both. The scorpions only retort is that its in his nature to do so.
    • by speedtux (1307149)

      Let's not get overly dramatic here: most people infected with the flu will feel miserable for a week and then they'll be fine.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      It reminds me of the story of the Scorpion and the frog, where the frog carries the scorpion across only to be stung halfway across dooming them both. The scorpions only retort is that its in his nature to do so.

      And that's all that I need to know about The Crying Game.

      (I know the parable is older than that movie. Some versions have it as a turtle instead of a frog, but it always seems to involve a scorpion.)

      • by fractoid (1076465)

        (I know the parable is older than that movie. Some versions have it as a turtle instead of a frog, but it always seems to involve a scorpion.)

        That's because squirrels don't sting. Duh.

    • NOT NEWS (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheMeuge (645043) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:10AM (#27832221)

      May I be the first one to suggest that this is not news?

      Most viruses combat the immune system... especially the innate immune system, which is largely responsible for the cytokine response. They have to, or the infection would never progress to clinical stages.

      Influenza is not an exception, and there is a mountain of literature about flu's ability to suppress innate immunity. There's hundreds of papers about influenza's ability to supress NF-kappaB, type I interferon, etc...

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        Well since TFA and TF Study compared the flu with other illnesses, I believe they're saying the flu is particularly adept at the job.

  • by Hoyty1 (1502645)
    I always wondered why people who get the flu have such widely varying symptoms. This offers me a bit of incite, especially with my powers of wild speculation!

    I've never had a doctor specifically tell me I had the flu but being the average Joe that I am I'll believe just about anything someone tells me. As long as they do it with authority! So it always seemed strange to me that my "flus" have had ranges of the sniffles to constant vomiting and other such disgusting bodily functions. Maybe it's becaus
    • by omris (1211900)

      Constant vomiting is not likely to be caused by an influenza virus. People call a lot of different things a "stomach flu" but that's really a misnomer. It has nothing to do with influenza. And one of the reasons that people don't frequently look into it any more than "stomach flu" is that it doesn't make a huge amount of difference what caused it, both the symptoms and treatment are the same: get lots of fluid and eventually it will go away. Or you'll die, which is a very unpleasant but thankfully small

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This offers me a bit of incite, especially with my powers of wild speculation!

      "Incite" and "insight" are two different words. You used the wrong one.

      (Bonus tip: though "site", "cite", and "sight" are all different words, "insite" isn't a word.)

  • ScienceFUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:04AM (#27832127) Journal

    "the influenza virus manages to dysregulate the immune system"

    is very different from

    "they also found a decreased response of toll-like receptors, which activate immune cell responses as a result of invading microbes."

    The latter is not only an accurate accounting of the result, it doesn't overgeneralize the implications. The mechanism studied is only part of the highly complex immune system. The results do not suggest, as does the headline, that the entire immune system gets hosed.

  • Its been known for a long time, that people with flu, are prone to bacteria and secondary infections, e.g. when flu gets a completion of pneumonia via bacteria. The article didn't mention a mechanism for the weekening of the immune system, perphaps its just that its to busy with the existing flu.

    Flu Feed [feeddistiller.com] at Feed Distillerr [feeddistiller.com]

    • Its been known for a long time, that people with flu, are prone to bacteria and secondary infections, e.g. when flu gets a completion of pneumonia via bacteria. The article didn't mention a mechanism for the weekening of the immune system, perphaps its just that its to busy with the existing flu.

      Flu Feed [feeddistiller.com] at Feed Distillerr [feeddistiller.com]

      Thats interesting because my 13 year old nephew has just been diagnosed with Fungal Meningitis [meningitis.com.au]. He doesn't have any condition which might have suppressed his immune system but I suppose it is possible that a spore got lucky and infected him while he was down with flu.

  • by XPeter (1429763) * on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @11:11AM (#27832261) Homepage

    The "Swine Flu" is being blown out of proportions in terms of it's severity so that all the big drug companies can get there bailout, too. The large population of retards who believe everything they hear from the mainstream media get scared, thus causing the government to order millions of dollars worth of "Tamiflu" and drugs alike. Doesn't anyone else see this?

    Hold on...there's a knock at the d-%!$*%& NO CARRIER

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, a bunch of other retards believe your ridiculous oh-I'm-so-persecuted dismissal, too.

      Swine flu is scary. Flus change quickly, it's already resistant to two of our antivirals, and it initially appeared to be spreading like a motherfucker. Might be it still is: the low numbers reported are WHO confirmed cases, which, by their nature, will almost always be lower than the actual cases.

      Most likely it won't get bad. Might be it won't even infect anyone. But if it does, and we haven't taken appropriate p

  • the flu virus has also been found to paralyze the attentions of the mass media industry

    • the flu virus has also been found to paralyze the attentions of the mass media industry

      No, I think they were simply out looking for a breath of fresh air. Seems the shit flowing from AIG execs really started making people sick.

      Woah, wait a sec! Those "pigs" in charge of AIG "hogging" all our money? Swine Flu? Is there a connection here? Tune in later for more...

  • These comments have been infected with Virtual Swine Flu.
  • by gpronger (1142181) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @12:15PM (#27833435) Journal
    The article in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology [jleukbio.org] raises a critical point, but is based upon some very limited patient data. For instance they classify the patients studied into "Severe", "Moderate" and RSV (not respiratory syncytial virus) and controls, with each group composed of 10, 5, 6, and 24 individuals respectfully. Also, the ages were relatively broad; for severe the average was 3.4 years (0.2-12.6 years), for moderate the average was 6.3 years (3 months-12 years), and the RVS group was 2.2 years (22 days-4 years), while the controls were 6.9 years (0.5-19 years).

    My point being is that the potential indication of the research needs to be picked up and validated with a more comprehensive study.
  • by wdhowellsr (530924) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @01:38PM (#27834955)
    It's seems odd that the general acceptance of the cytokine storm creating an overabundance of T-Cell and Macrophages is now being questioned. Everything written so far has indicated that the stronger the patient's immune system, the greater the response.

    I'd wait until we see a peer reviewed study in a major medical journal.

    William D Howell
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Really?

    Who would want to take their kids to CHOPP for a check up? That's like naming a shampoo brand LICE or a new power drink PUKE.

  • by vincecate (741268) on Tuesday May 05, 2009 @07:42PM (#27840373) Journal
    I am convinced that Vitamin D is important for resisting the flu. It is produced in your skin from sunlight. It is important for your immune system. During the winter most people don't get enough, which seems to be why the flu is more common then. Very young and very old people get even less sun than normal and are worse hit by the flu. The same flu virus is not nearly as deadly during the summer. The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D was calculated to be enough keep people from getting rickets but is far below what your body will produce given 15 minute of sun. http://www.virologyj.com/content/5/1/29 [virologyj.com] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flu_season#Mechanism_for_seasonal_nature_of_influenza [wikipedia.org] (yes I added the Vitamin-D stuff but look at the links)
  • For the record... (Score:2, Informative)

    by keith_nt4 (612247)

    ...I work in an IT department of a hospital in Northern California. I don't wear the stupid masks, I haven't had any shots and I've been regularly going around to every possible department/area of the hospital during this whole flue scare for (and for the last eight months). I don't have the Swine Flu or whatever they call it these days. Actually so far as I've heard no one else I work with has caught it either. I hope everybody can start to relax about this!

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

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