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NIAID media availability: Understanding influenza infection

WHAT: The current flu season is underway and much attention is focused on the recent outbreaks of a deadly avian influenza virus in Asia and southeastern Europe. Understanding how influenza viruses cause infection and how the human immune system attempts to fight off the invaders offers a basis for developing new influenza vaccines and treatments that could potentially combat seasonal influenza or worse, a global pandemic.

In a commentary appearing online Jan. 17 in Immunity, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and leading NIAID influenza vaccine researchers Brian R. Murphy, M.D., and Kanta Subbarao, M.D., M.P.H., discuss

  • How influenza viruses function
  • Why the human immune system effectively wards off flu infection in some cases but not others
  • The difference between antigenic "drift" and "shift"
  • The scenario that could create a flu pandemic
  • The practical and immunological challenges to developing protective vaccines

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Contact: Kathy Stover
kstover@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
17-Jan-2006


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