|Flu may give H1N1 protection|
| SINGAPORE - People who have had repeated flu infections - or repeated flu vaccines - may have some protection against the new pandemic swine influenza, US researchers in Washington said on Monday.|
They found evidence that the human immune system can recognise bits of the new H1N1 virus that are similar to older, distantly related H1N1 strains.
"What we have found is that the swine flu has similarities to the seasonal flu, which appear to provide some level of pre-existing immunity. This suggests that it could make the disease less severe in the general population than originally feared," said Alessandro Sette, director of the Center for Infectious Disease at California"s La Jolla Institute, was quoted by the Straits Times.
Older less likely to get flu
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may also help explain why many older people are less likely to have severe disease, said Allison Deckhut-Augustine of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"Adults may have some pre-existing immunity for H1N1," Ms Deckhut-Augustine said in a telephone interview. That does not mean older people are protected from infection, and Ms Deckhut-Augustine stressed that people should still be vaccinated against H1N1.
Swine flu has infected millions of people globally and killed an estimated 3,900 in the United States alone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Drug makers are struggling to make vaccines and governments are working to vaccinate their populations.
Bjoern Peters and colleagues at the La Jolla Institute looked at flu epitopes - molecular markers or structures that the immune system recognises - dating back 20 years.
"We found that the immune system"s T-cells can recognize a significant percent of the markers in swine flu," Mr Peters said in a statement.
It appears that there are still quite a few discrepancies which are emerging from the experiences of the current novel H1N1 influenza. While many reports are now analysed, the most recent CDC report suggested that at best the seasonal flu vaccine seems neutral in its effect in offering any or no protection against the novel H1N1 flu (see last post below).
The recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences seem to suggest that people who have been exposed to previous flu infections or vaccinations appear to have some limited protection against the novel H1N1 flu, conferring some form of cross-immunity.
Still the new vaccine appears to be the best approach to counter the spread of this H1N1 pandemic.