The 1918 flu pandemic and what happens in the lungs

Here’s another very interesting article, Perrone et al. that we all can read because it’s open-access over at PLoS Pathogens.

For those who are non-scientists, read the author’s summary. Money quote:

Our data shows excessive immune cell infiltration in the lungs contributing to severe consolidation and tissue architecture destruction in mice infected with highly pathogenic (HP) influenza viruses, supporting the histopathological observations of lung tissue from 1918 and H5N1 fatalities.

Pandemic flu–cytokine storm

One of the key reasons why pandemic flu kills you is the cytokine storm–essentially a hyper-effective response of the immune system. The cytokine storm, in response to the invading flu virus, essentially leads to massive organ failure. Here’s a recent article from PNAS about strategies to control the flu-induced cytokine storm. The notion is that if we could do so, pandemic flu would, like seasonal flu, just be a miserable experience–not a life threatening one.

And here’s another article from PLoS showing just how complex this system really is. Recent attempts to dial down the cytokine storm using biologicals have been problematic.

Jim