Health Highlights: May 24, 201305/24/13
Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
'Nanoparticle' Flu Vaccine Could Be an Advance
Scientists have used nanotechnology to create a flu vaccine that
may be quicker to develop and more adaptable to changing flu
"This is, I believe, an important advance," Dr. Tony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC News.
Researchers at the institute developed the new vaccine, which is
made of nanoparticles that self- assemble under laboratory
conditions into an "impostor" of the flu virus. This method gets
around the traditional method of using a weakened form of live
virus that's then grown laboriously over a period of months in
chicken eggs, the researchers said.
Use of live virus makes the flu shot's effectiveness less
predictable, since the pathogen mutates constantly.
The new technology uses a piece of the flu virus called
hemagglutinin, which is then fused with a piece of a compound
called ferritin that naturally forms nanoparticles. These
nanoparticles end up resembling the hemagluttinin found on the
"They look like flu. They react with [immune system] antibodies like flu," researcher Dr. Gary Nabel told NBC. Nabel, who now works for vaccine maker Sanofi, worked at NIAID previously and helped develop the new vaccine. His team reported their findings in the journal Nature.
According to Nabel, without the need to grow virus in chicken
eggs, the speed at which seasonal vaccines could be created would
be drastically reduced -- perhaps to just a week or two.
And Fauci said such vaccines might protect against a wide
variety of flu strains.
"To me, this is an important step toward the development of a universal flu vaccine," he told NBC. "The definition of a universal flu vaccine is it covers wide range [of virus strains] and you wouldn't necessarily need to get a new one each year."
So far, the new shot has worked in ferrets, which are considered
close models to humans in terms of their reactions to flu.
Researchers are working on a version that could work in people.
Mystery Illness Kills 2 in Alabama
A respiratory illness of unknown origin has hospitalized five
people and killed two others in southeast Alabama, state health
officials announced Tuesday.
Over the past few weeks, the patients were admitted to hospitals
with cough, fever and shortness of breath, Alabama Department of
Health spokeswoman Mary McIntyre said in a statement, the
Lab tests are currently underway to try and identify the nature
of the illnesses and McIntyre said preliminary results are expected
by Wednesday or Thursday.
So far, "we're only aware of [cases in] the Southeast, but we
don't know, we haven't received reports from anywhere else,"
McIntyre told the
AP. "That's why we're trying to get the information
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