biology

Effect Measure

Category archives for biology

There is no way to keep up with all the flu news, so we pick and choose, usually based on some kind of point we want to make. That’s both the good and the bad of this blog: the news comes with a point of view. But so does most news, and we try to…

Yesterday one of the questions we asked was whether swine H1N1 would replace seasonal viruses this season. In previous pandemics one subtype completely replaced its seasonal predecessor: in 1957 H2N2 replaced the H1N1 that had been coming back annually at least since 1918; only 11 years later, in 1968, a pandemic with H3N2 replaced the…

Swine flu: the Flu Wiki

In June 2005 a reader over at the old site suggested we put up some of our flu related material on Wikipedia. That sounded like a great idea to me. Even better, why not start a special purpose wiki — a flu wiki — to harvest the vast knowledge of the hivemind? Many, if not…

Important flu paper on immune response

Every day, it seems, we find out that what we thought we knew about flu isn’t the case. As one noted flu expert said to me once, “I knew much more about flu 20 years ago than I do now.” So it’s good to remember that we are also finding out a lot about flu…

The news of a new antiviral comes at a Press Conference. That could either mean a blockbuster breakthrough or an unwarranted device to get attention for some otherwise decent but not blockbuster science. Unfortunately, the news that “Experts Identify Compound That May Fight Bird Flu” is of the second type:

If you had a prowler at your house you’d call the police. You’d want them to come. But what if they sent a SWAT Team, surrounded the house and blasted it from all sides. Not good. That seems to be something like the scenario for a response to a class of virulent influenza viruses. They…

Ecology and your urinary tract

Papers on biodiversity are not my regular science reading fare and the reason I found my self reading the article “Initial community evenness favours functionality under selective stress” by Wittebolle et al. in Nature from last week isn’t very important. But I did find myself reading about the “biodiversity-stability relationship” in a microbial ecosystem, so…

Piggy-backing flu on smallpox vaccine

There is as yet no pandemic bird flu vaccine but there are a lot of potential vaccines. The recent fiasco involving Baxter International (here, here) involved one in development. There are many more. They employ old and new technologies and are in various stages, a few in early clinical trials. Many more are in the…

How the flu virus performs cap snatching

Nature has just published another new paper on the basic biology of influenza virus. Unlike other recent papers it doesn’t purport to reveal the secret of why some flu (e.g., H5N1, 1918 H1N1) is so virulent and “normal” seasonal influenza much less so. Instead it involves a process and structures that are the same in…

Every couple of months a major flu paper appears purporting to reveal why the 1918 H1N1 virus was so horrifically virulent in comparison to the other pandemic viruses of the last century, H2N2 (1957 pandemic) and H3N2 (1968 pandemic). It’s not just the H1N1 subtype of the influenza A virus that made it so deadly.…