Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More on Influenza: From Linguistics to the WHO

So I think someone up there heard my cries last week in class - this article is really right on my target. It is 1) a super cool story of a man who was studying linguistics when he realized his ability to pinpoint subtle differences would be a great way to track influenza mutation - and then he got offered a job by the WHO to be a member of the elite committee who picks the vaccine strains semi-annually (the future of many of our classmates? We can only dream...) and 2) Talks in depth about the complicated nature of picking the next vaccine strains:

"To tell how much a new strain differs from previous ones, researchers test how well its HA is inhibited by antibodies to known strains harvested from infected ferrets. If the antibodies bind well, the new virus is "antigenically close" to those earlier ones; if they don't, the new strain is more distant. These results are used to create complex tables with thousands of numbers, each describing the outcome of one binding assay; they are impenetrable to all but the most experienced researchers."

Now isn't that just what we were saying last week?

Click here to read it all for yourself


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