Researchers identify risks for death from H7N9 avian flu virus
PostedDecember 27, 2013
Since March 2013, the avian flu virus H7N9 has infected 134 people and caused 44 deaths. Among those infected, many, but not all, patients develop severe symptoms, including pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), that can eventually result in death. Until now, scientists have not understood why the disease affects some more severely than others. Peter Doherty and his colleagues have found that patients with high levels of certain cytokines are more likely to suffer severe lung and airway damage than patients with lower levels of these cytokines. They also discovered that patients who carry a particular variant of the gene that codes for the protein IFITM3 are more likely to suffer severe symptoms and to die than patients with other versions of the gene. The research appears in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous research has shown that H7N9 patients with elevated plasma cytokine levels tend to experience poor outcomes. To study the relationship between cytokine levels and disease progression further, Doherty and his team took blood plasma samples from 18 patients infected with H7N9 who were admitted to the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center. Eventually, 12 of the patients recovered and six died.