Genetic clue to fighting new strains of flu

by Anne Rahilly
Genetic clue to fighting new strains of flu

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Melbourne have discovered a genetic marker that can accurately predict which patients will experience more severe disease in a new strain of influenza (H7N9) currently found in China.

Published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, senior author, Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology said that being able to predict which patients will be more susceptible to the emerging , will allow clinicians to better manage an early intervention strategy.

"By using genetic markers to blood and lung samples, we have discovered that there are certain indicators that signal increased susceptibility to this influenza. Higher than normal levels of cytokines, driven by a genetic variant of a protein called IFITM3, tells us that the severe disease is likely," she said.

"We call this a Cytokine Storm and people with the defective genetic variant of the protein IFITM3 are more likely to succumb to severe influenza infection.

Professor Peter Doherty, AC, Laureate Professor and a lead author of the study from the University of Melbourne said predicting how influenza works in individuals has implications for the management of disease and the resources on our health system.

"We are exploring how genetic sequencing and early identification can allow us to intervene in treating patients before they become too unwell. As new cases of emerge in the Northern Hemisphere, we try to keep a season ahead and prepare to protect the most vulnerable in our community," he said.

Though the H7N9 strain has not been found in Australia, researchers from the University of Melbourne are collaborating closely with Prof Jianqing Xu and his group from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center in China. In addition to this, Dr Zhongfang Wang, an NHMRC Australian-China Exchange Fellow is also working closely with Melbourne experts.

More information: "Early hypercytokinemia is associated with interferon-induced transmembrane protein-3 dysfunction and predictive of fatal H7N9 infection," by Zhongfang Wang et al. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1321748111

Related Stories

New findings into conquering influenza

Jan 29, 2013

Reseachers from the University of Melbourne and The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) have discovered a new protein that protects against viral infections such as influenza.

Recommended for you

Sri Lanka celebrates two years without malaria

3 minutes ago

Sri Lanka has not reported a local case of malaria since October 2012, according to the Sri Lankan Anti-Malarial Campaign. If it can remain malaria-free for one more year, the country will be eligible to apply to the World ...

Poll: Many doubt hospitals can handle Ebola

3 hours ago

A new poll finds most Americans have some confidence that the U.S. health care system will prevent Ebola from spreading in this country, but they're not so sure their local hospital can safely handle a patient.

Number of Ebola cases nears 10,000

4 hours ago

The number of people with Ebola is set to hit 10,000 in West Africa, the World Health Organization said, as the scramble to find a cure gathered pace.

'Breath test' shows promise for diagnosing fungal pneumonia

4 hours ago

Many different microbes can cause pneumonia, and treatment may be delayed or off target if doctors cannot tell which bug is the culprit. A novel approach—analyzing a patient's breath for key chemical compounds made by the ...

User comments