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Drug Targets Killer Cytokine Storm From Flu

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Scripts Researchers say sphingosine analog AAL-R can block the immune system response triggering a "cytokine storm."

http://www.scripps.edu/news/press/012009.html

The flu causes death one of two ways - either by overwhelming the system of very young, old, or otherwise already ill individuals - this happens with the ordinary seasonal flu and the Type A H1N1 which is now spreading like wildfire.

A really dangerous influenza virus actually causes deaths among the strongest and most healthy individuals by causing the person's normal immune system to overreact and flood the lungs with fluid.

This kind of reaction causes very high mortality rates in the range of 50% or higher, as is the case with the H5N1 bird flu that the world's health agencies have been preparing for.

The current H1N1 outbreak has had a very low mortality rate, in large part because it doesn't trigger this cytokine storm and also is a close relative of an older flu strain for which many older individuals already have partial immunity.

Researchers at the La Jolla, California-based Scripts Research Institute have recently reported that the sphingosine drug directly impacts the cytokine response and therefore may be a vital tool in reducing the mortality of any new pandemic flu virus which has a high mortality rate caused by the cytokine storm.

Unlike existing drugs which attack the virus itself, this drug doesn't attempt to stop the flu infection and is therefore independent of the particular strain involved - rather it targets what is the real danger, leaving the patient time to recover on their own.

This is not important for the current H1N1 virus which is relatively harmless, but can have a significant impact on the much feared H5N1 bird flu if it ever becomes a pandemic as many researchers fear.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. Contact John through NewsBlaze.

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