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Bird Flu Drug Mass Production Technique Discovered 252

Posted by Zonk
from the yay-for-smart-people dept.
creepygeek writes to mention a New Scientist article detailing a new process for creating Tamiflu, an antiviral drug currently thought to be our best defense against the bird flu. From the article: "Making Tamiflu is slow, partly because shikimic is hard to get, but also because one step in the process involves a highly explosive chemical called an azide. As a result, Tamiflu can be made only in small batches of a few tens of litres at a time. But Elias Corey of Harvard University - who won a Nobel prize in 1990 for chemical synthesis - and colleagues have devised a new way to make the drug from two cheap, plentiful petrochemicals, acrylate and butadiene."
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Bird Flu Drug Mass Production Technique Discovered

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  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:20AM (#15269479)

    From TFA:
    The biggest hope for saving people at the start of a bird flu pandemic, before a vaccine is available, is the antiviral drug Tamiflu
    It's too bad that our 'biggest hope' is not up to the task, as the following articles assert:

    It might be better to just stock up on old-fashioned Jewish penicillin [ivillage.co.uk].
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:37AM (#15269574)
      It might be better to just stock up on old-fashioned Jewish penicillin.

      Not a good plan. If Bird Flu strikes, chicken will be rarer than shikimic acid.

      • by Philip K Dickhead (906971) * <folderol@fancypants.org> on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:58AM (#15270105) Journal
        Yeah, but Tamiflu is a great scam for Rumsfeld, who made millions as a former Executive with Gilead - the developer of this nonsense.

        Take two Vioxx, and call me from Iraq in the morning.
        • by moro_666 (414422) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <rotaanimluk>> on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:11AM (#15270220) Homepage
          how do these articles even get posted ?


          Tamiflu, an antiviral drug currently thought to be our best defense against


          AFAIK Tamiflu doesn't Defend you from the virus, it just makes easier for the body to Fight it once you're already infected. you can still die, and if you've been illusional enough to waste your Tamiflu before you got ill the chances will be even better (since there won't be any on the market when/if it will/should ever hit in).

          There's still no birdflu here that could move from one mammal to another via air. There are lots of other viruses around that deal much greater damage at the time being, perhaps we should pay attention at them aswell ?

          ps. even if you buy a ton of tamifly, the animals that you need around for the farming industry to work, won't be protected, and if it's half as bad as it supposedly could be, you'll just die into hunger. hopefully wild animals have better protection against it than the worthless humans.

      • But really, if you remember to stock up before the flu strikes, then you'll be armed with a great weapon for looting: you'll run home to home, threatening anyone who gets in your way with a big bucket full of potential bird flu.
    • by thebdj (768618) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:39AM (#15269585) Journal
      Two of the three articles reference to the same write-up from the NEMJ. It is also possible, though I cannot be sure, that the third article's journal reference could be a submission from the same individual. Now, I do not know how much to trust what they say about Tamiflu still being the best option, because saying otherwise would just lead people to freak out when the pandemic comes, but I believe it would probably still be one of the better options.

      Drug resistances happen because virii and bacteria mutate over time. This is a big reason why many traditional antibiotics are becoming less useful against certain bacteria, and a possible cause for some of the "super bugs." And if your idea for fighting bird flu is with chicken soup, we truly are screwed.
    • by mrpeebles (853978)
      What we really need to do is beef up our local emergency response system across the entire country. Unfortunately, this costs real money. We seem tempted to think the right pill will fix all other aspects of our lives, and another flu pandemic is no different.
    • wait a minute. You're suggesting that the best defense for a pandemic of BIRD FLU would be to consume CHICKEN Soup?

      That smacks of a vaguely Matrix 'human as the incubator' approach to a new 'mass produced' production technique of generating the necessary antibodies quickly, no?
    • by Pedrito (94783) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:11AM (#15269782) Homepage
      It's impossible at this point to determine how resistant the bird flu will be to Tamiflu if it becomes an easily contagious pandemic form. The reason? Because to become easily contagious, it has to mutate. When it mutates, it becomes a different virus which may be more resistant than the current strain, less resistant, or the same.

      The difference from a mutation can be enormous. For example, the current virus has about a 50% mortality rate. It is very like when that when it mutates, this mortality rate will go down. The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 had only a 2.5-5% mortality rate and that was without Tamiflu. That doesn't mean this one will mutate into only having a 2.5-5% rate. It will likely have a higher rate, and frankly, I think a lot of the predictions of how many will die from an H5N1 mutant pandemic are lowball figures because they do tend to assume a pretty low mortality compared to what it's currently at.

      But you're basically comparing apples and oranges at this point. A pandemic flu will not be the current strain because the current strain simply isn't contagious enough.
      • Mortality rates (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tjwhaynes (114792) on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:06AM (#15270164)
        For example, the current virus has about a 50% mortality rate. It is very like when that when it mutates, this mortality rate will go down.

        I have problems with these mortality figures. It's very easy to determine who died from bird flu - you have a body, death certificate, medical records, etc. It is NOT easy to work out who has had the bird flu and has survived in the general populace - not all sick people will have seen a doctor and some may not even have developed symptoms. Without doing a massive study looking for bird-flu antibodies, the mortality figures are almost certainly overblown, maybe by orders of magnitude. This applies whether we are talking about the impact on birds or on humans.

        Cheers,
        Toby Haynes

        • I have problems with these mortality figures.

          I disagree. There are exactly 206 confirmed cases of bird flu. Of those 206, 113 have died, a 55% mortality rate.

          Are you saying there are a lot of people who might have gotten it and are fine? I seriously doubt it. Not a lot of people got Spanish flu and didn't have pretty severe symptoms. Anyone who gets H5N1 is going to end up in a hospital or dead if they don't.

          Look, you can only use statistics for the cases you know about. So yeah, some people may have gotte
    • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:44AM (#15269995)
      A new vaccine [yahoo.com] has been developed that targets the part of a flu virus that is conserved between mutations. Admittedly it might not be as effective as a targeted vacciene for a particular strain, but it would likely provide general protection against most flu viruses. So far it's been tested in ferrets (a good human model) and protects against H5N1 avian influenza.
    • by gg3po (724025)

      It's too bad that our 'biggest hope' is not up to the task...

      This is because the purpose of all this "bird flu" fear-mongering, and particularly in relation to Tamiflu®, has nothing to do with protecting the public. It appears to be really just another example of government corruption -- an excuse to funnel large quantities of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of chronies like Donald Rumsfeld and crew [cnn.com]. Turns out all these huge orders placed by the federal government for an ineffective treatment are m

  • by Phantombrain (964010) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:21AM (#15269481) Journal
    Can I come out of my air-tight bubble yet?
  • Good news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaHat (247651) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:21AM (#15269485) Homepage
    If we believe the hype that the bird flu is a real threat to the health of the people of the world... which despite the hype from the media and the upcoming ABC made for tv movie... I have yet to see any credible evidence of despite much looking.
    • Re:Good news... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:37AM (#15269571)
      If we believe the hype that the bird flu is a real threat to the health of the people of the world... which despite the hype from the media and the upcoming ABC made for tv movie... I have yet to see any credible evidence of despite much looking.

      Every so often, a mutant flu strain arises that kills millions of people. Most famously in 1919, when more people died from flu than were killed in the entire four years of unprecedentedly bloody warfare just past. IIRC there were two more major flu pandemics in the twentieth century, although neither were as devastating.

      Sooner or later there WILL be another flu with the ability to kill millions. The only way we have of preventing another 1919 is to spot the threat before it gets going and prepare a vaccine. Hence the worry over H5N1. It's entirely possible that it will all blow over. It's also possible that it will mutate to a form that can spread from one human to another, and become pandemic. If it doesn't, well, great. If it does, we'll be glad we prepared.

      For myself, I'm far more afraid of a mutant strain of bird flu killing me than I am of terrorists killing me. That said, I'm more afraid of being hit by a car than I am of either of them, but that doesn't stop me crossing the road...

      • There aren't too many people around that still remember the 1918 pandemic, but if you have records of your relatives that were alive at the time, odds are at least one of them died of the flu.
      • Well said. Our society tends to ignore events with a low probability of occuring. (What are the odds a hurricane could hit New Orleans, right?) A pandemic will happen again someday; we just don't have a schedule.

        Experts like Robert G. Webster are worried about H5N1, so it makes sense to take some precautions.

        The Great Influenza by John Barry will scare your socks off, and it is all historical fact.

        A good source of information about a possible pandemic is fluwikie.com [fluwikie.com]

      • For myself, I'm far more afraid of a mutant strain of bird flu killing me than I am of terrorists killing me. That said, I'm more afraid of being hit by a car than I am of either of them, but that doesn't stop me crossing the road...

        Dude, that is a great line.
      • Re:Good news... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ocbwilg (259828)
        Sooner or later there WILL be another flu with the ability to kill millions. The only way we have of preventing another 1919 is to spot the threat before it gets going and prepare a vaccine. Hence the worry over H5N1. It's entirely possible that it will all blow over. It's also possible that it will mutate to a form that can spread from one human to another, and become pandemic. If it doesn't, well, great. If it does, we'll be glad we prepared.

        Maybe it's flu, maybe it's something else. If we spent so mu
        • You don't understand, there WILL be another flu epidemic, whether it is H5N1 or another strain. If we do not prepare then we will lose about 5%-20% of the population, so putting the efforts of a millionth of one percent of the world population to stopping it seems like pretty damn cheap insurance. Now should there be all the media hype, not sure but if the population isn't aware then there is little chance of an effective widespread action being manageable.
    • Re:Good news... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mikeisme77 (938209) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:41AM (#15269595) Homepage Journal
      Exactly. The media is always blowing something out of proportion as the next big threat to humanity (or the US):

      -Killer bees (there was a movie on this one too)
      -SARS
      -AIDs (several movies)
      -Terrorism
      -Anthrax (related to the above)
      -Small Pox coming back
      -Etc.

      While they're all threats, they aren't just going to all of a sudden just break out all over the place. The media loves to feed off our fears--as it sells almost as well as sex. When it explodes, THEN freak out about it, but until then enjoy life.

      • Exactly.
        Just like the people who suggest you look both ways before crossing the street...
        It's a waste of time, it can hurt your neck, and make your iPod earphones fall out.

        There's nothing we can do in either case, plus we have either God or Government (or both!) on our side so we can just relax and enjoy life!!!

        And for when (or rather IF) it hits, I have a great freak out plan:
        I'll just shoot all my neighbors and take their food and water!
        Who's with me?
        • I'm not saying don't do anything about it. I think researchers should work on a cure. The only thing the government can (and should do) is fund said researchers--and all the other sciences. If you want to believe in God taking care of it all, then you go ahead and lie down like that. And then he'll strike you with a thunderbolt. All I'm saying is that the media blows things way out of proportion and that the average person need not worry about it until such times as something actually happens (unless they w
          • I agree with you to a certain point, media will sell this for all its worth, relying on our fears.
            However, if something like this does strike, those who haven't thought about dealing with it are gonna be in for a shock.

            I lived in a warzone (briefly- 5 months), where we would only get electricity and running water for a few hours a day. It requires a major lifestyle change. When you have to use the same bucket of water to wash your dishes, then clothes and then to flush the can, it requires some planning.
            If
            • I live in Denver you insensitive clod!

              Seriously, with my camping gear and 200 gal boiler in the basement and some powdered milk I'll be okay for a few weeks. I'll even be able to read with my diesel lamps!

      • Educate yourself (Score:3, Informative)

        by GuloGulo2 (972355)
        "Influenza
        o The "Asiatic Flu", 1889-1890. Was first reported in May of 1889 in Bukhara, Russia. By October, it had reached Tomsk and the Caucasus. It rapidly spread west and hit North America in December 1889, South America in February-April 1890, India in February-March 1890, and Australia in March-April 1890. It was purportedly caused by the H2N8 type of flu virus and had a very high attack and mortality rate.
        • I wasn't saying don't research cures--by all means do that. I was speaking more in terms of the general public. And all of those examples, the largest death toll was still "only" 50 million or so world wide. That's a far cry from shutting down 3/4 of the US and such that the media predicts. I'm not saying it's not bad, I'm just saying it's blown totally out of proportion. If the media were right on even half their claims, the human race would already be extinct...
          • Re:Educate yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

            by meringuoid (568297)
            And all of those examples, the largest death toll was still "only" 50 million or so world wide. That's a far cry from shutting down 3/4 of the US and such that the media predicts.

            I hear that the British government are setting up contingency plans to dispose of around 300,000 bodies, as a worst-case scenario: that's about one twentieth of the population. Doesn't seem so much on the face of it, does it? Surely we can cope without 5%.

            But for everyone killed, how many spend weeks off work on a sickbed? How

            • Re:Educate yourself (Score:3, Informative)

              by vidarh (309115)
              I hear that the British government are setting up contingency plans to dispose of around 300,000 bodies, as a worst-case scenario: that's about one twentieth of the population.

              The UK has 60 million inhabitants, not 6 million... So it's 0.5%, not 5%.

              • The UK has 60 million inhabitants, not 6 million... So it's 0.5%, not 5%.

                See, here's why I probably shouldn't stick away a couple of pints at lunchtime and then try to do mental arithmetic. Misplaced decimal point, editing out 54 million people from the UK. Oops.

                That said, some among the Scots, Welsh and Not Quite Irish would probably appreciate the removal of 54 million people from the UK :-)

      • AIDS is not a bogeyman. It's real, and it's classified as a pandemic. Check out some news that doesn't involve slashdot sometime.

        http://www.whitehouse.gov/onap/facts.html [whitehouse.gov]
        http://www.accessexcellence.org/HHQ/HRC/HF/aids/in dex.html [accessexcellence.org]
        http://asmallvictory.net/archives/005326.html [asmallvictory.net]
        • I'm not denying it's a pandemic. I'm simply stating that it's not even close to as widespread/as many deaths as the media was predicting in the 80's. I may have been born in '84, but that doesn't mean I haven't watched some of the old movies/news reels on the topic.
      • The media is always blowing something out of proportion

        It's equally as tragic to ignore what is a very plausable threat to 10-20% of humanity.

        ...they aren't just going to all of a sudden just break out all over the place...

        So your saying it doesn't "suddenly just break out all over the place" every year during "flu season"? Surely that must have been a typo because you fix it up by contradicting yourself...

        "When it explodes[emphasis mine], THEN freak out about it, ...."

        What a good idea, let's
    • Are we to trust a random person on /. to look for "credible evidence", or the opinion of several experts actively working on the subject:

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2343414988 689203314 [google.com]
    • Check out what Michael Osterholm (the former Minnesota state epidemiologist) has to say: http://citypages.com/databank/27/1320/article14219 .asp [citypages.com]:

      "H5N1 is the most powerful influenza virus we've seen in modern human history"

      and if you don't feel like reading the whole article:

      This virus is quite different from what we see with the standard annual flu, and what we saw in 1957 and 1968, because of the cytokine storm it causes. In 1918, the vast majority of the people who died were healthy young people,

    • If we believe the hype that the bird flu is a real threat to the health of the people of the world... which despite the hype from the media and the upcoming ABC made for tv movie... I have yet to see any credible evidence of despite much looking.

      Perhaps you're unfamiliar with history. Credible evidence? How about 3 flu pandemics in the 20th century? The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. The 1957 Asian flu pandemic (1-4 million dead). The 1968 Hong Kong flu pandemic (as many as 750,000 dead).

      A flu pandemic WILL co
  • Before any useful medical advancement becomes available to the general public. Yes, this is a cynical remark. Is any other kind of a remark merited by the way things work today?
  • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:24AM (#15269497)
    Thanks, but no thanks. I prefer the highly explosive vaccine, thank you very much...
  • by mothlos (832302) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:25AM (#15269503)
    How about education and municipal plans to regarding epidemics? Anti-virals might be the best chance of treating those who have bird flu, but the best practice is to contain the virus early and give the medical community time to develop a real vaccine defense.
  • by thisisfrankscortex (968290) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:25AM (#15269504)
    I think the most notable thing about this paper is that the last sentances read "It is our hope that the process described herein will be of value in improving the opply of oseltamivir and in reducing the cost. With regard to the latter, the process described herein in in the (unpatented) public domain."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:30AM (#15269522)
    I hear Yogi Bear is quite good at getting baskets full of shikimic. I might have heard wrong, though.

    Hey Boo-Boo, let's go grab the shik-a-mic basket, the mi-grr-a-tor-ee birds are coming with the flooo!
  • by hj43us (728114) on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:30AM (#15269523) Homepage
    Till know aound 50 people worldwide had died of bird flu. I guess more people die being stroke by a lightning. But the worst thing is that nobody knows whether Tamiflu will cure bird flu or not. Meanwhile health authorities all over the wold had been doing massive buys of that medicine ... sounds weird. I, for one, start a business of selling a new drug that is suppossed to protect you against being struck by a lightning. I'm already taking orders. Anyone?
    • The problem with your argument is that chickens do not transmit lightning strikes to each other, nor has it ever been documented that one organizm can transmit a lightning strike to another. (Though there is a Sci-ops contingent known as E.E.L.S. that has moderate success.)
    • "Till know aound 50 people worldwide had died of bird flu."

      The threat is not from this form of bird flu. The threat is from a form that can be transferred from human to human. If that happens, predictions are that it could kill upwards of 70 million people. For informed opinions, as opposed to random /. opinions, see this extremely informative discussion with experts:

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=234341498 8 689203314 [google.com]
      • ummm, yeah, 70 million people that's a lot right? wait, whats the total human population right now? >6Billion?

        Somehow I'm not really worried. This disease doesn't even have the potential to slow down human population growth.

        • "ummm, yeah, 70 million people that's a lot right? wait, whats the total human population right now? >6Billion?"

          Those 70 million won't be spread equally among the 6 billion, but be concentrated in cities. If it was spread equally, 1 in 85 people would die. That's about half as likely as you getting in a car accident, which is one of the most (or the most?) common dangers for people, at least in the U.S. If you yourself don't get the human-to-human bird flu, you would likely know several friends or rel
    • "But the worst thing is that nobody knows whether Tamiflu will cure bird flu or not."

      This is similar to the flu shot people get every year. They take a guess as to what form the flu will take and then produce a vaccine for it. Of course, the flu that actually spreads around may be completely different, thus negating any benefit of getting the shot. Consequently, I don't bother with the flu shot.
  • Tamiflu is made from petrochemicals???

    How long before we see a story about making bioTamiflu out of used vegetable oil from McDonald's?

  • Who else read this and only saw "highly explosive" and spent 20 mins looking up stuff that exploded.

    Bah to your end of the world disease, I was stuff that blows up.

  • by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@g m a i l .com> on Friday May 05, 2006 @09:37AM (#15269568)
    For anyone who believes that it is all hype, or knows little about bird flu, I highly recommend this extremely informative discussion Charlie Rose had with 3 experts on the subject. It is by no means overly technical.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2343414988 689203314 [google.com]

    The truth is that it is not hype; just because we know about it well ahead of the time when it will actually affect us doesn't mean that it will not be a threat. The most interesting part of that discussion is the possibility that people with AIDS will be the least likely to be harmed by bird flu, since it is the overactive immune system--in response to the foreign disease--that ultimately kills you.
  • Now there's yet another thing to drive up the price of oil! Just what we needed!

    (yes, that was sarcastic...)
    • HAH!
      The joke's on you.
      With the truck maintainers, dispatchers, drivers, train loaders, controllers and engineers, grocery chain administrators, stockers, floorpeople and salespeople staying home either sick, hungry, scared or dying there won't be any need for gas!

      That's the best part of it, see, the gorillas will just freeze in the winter!
  • "a new way to make the drug from two cheap, plentiful petrochemicals, acrylate and butadiene"

    Petrochemical eh? as in petro based? Does this mean gas price is going up more once we start making these drugs? :)
  • Tamiflu won't work. The H5N1 virus can mutate into a form unaffected by Tamiflu. In Vietnam four out of eight avian flu patients who were given the medication died despite the treatment.

    (CTV NEWS) http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNew s/20051221/tamiflu_drug_051221/20051221 [www.ctv.ca]

    Many top experts are advising to prepare for the worst. The US gov. is urging people to store food that could last for three months. In the UK mass graves are being planed openly. Forget Tamiflu:

    (BBC) http://news.bbc.co.uk/ [bbc.co.uk]
    • Many top experts are advising to prepare for the worst.

      Cite? All the real experts I have read want to throttle the world media for creating mass hysteria.

    • It's a pretty long stretch to say that it is ineffective based on a 50% death rate in a sample of 8 patients. You don't know how many of those patients would have died without Tamiflu for starters.

      And if you bother to read the articles you've linked, you'll find that in the case of the UK, how to handle burials is being discussed in addition to Tamiflu and vaccines as a precautionary measure - you really don't want to risk a situation where a large number of people die and you can't deal with the bodies a

  • You mean they discovered patent reform?
  • by plopez (54068) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:06AM (#15269747) Journal
    1) There probably is no statisically significant data available to determine if tamuflu can stop an epidemic.
    2) To rely on only one method is insane. This is just common sense.
    3) The assumption is that over time the disease may be come resistant to tamuflu and so other measures are needed (see pt. #2).
    4) Tamuflu failed when improper dosages were given.

    So to throw out tamuflu would be silly. It would be a good thing to have around, thought the only way to really find out is to have a major outbreak. Only then will we *really* know if it would work.

    No time for FUD, I must get on with life.
  • "...from highly explosive..."
    hmmm I see... They plan to eliminate bird flu by making every sick bird explode. clever!
  • by bodrell (665409) on Friday May 05, 2006 @10:32AM (#15269910) Journal
    Roche's current production methods use the azide (which is not as hazardous as news articles would have you believe), but their own scientists have already come up with an azide-free route (though it still uses shikimic acid). See for yourself:
    J. Org. Chem. 2001, 66, 2044-2051.

    "New, Azide-Free Transformation of Epoxides into 1,2-Diamino Compounds: Synthesis of the Anti-Influenza Neuraminidase Inhibitor Oseltamivir Phosphate (Tamiflu)"

    Martin Karpf* and Rene Trussardi F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., Pharmaceuticals Division, Non-Clinical Development, Chemical Process Research, Grenzacherstrasse 124, CH-4070, Basel, Switzerland
    Google scholar should show at least the first page.

    Corey's synthesis is pretty nifty. It just needs FDA approval and Roche has to adopt it. Given that Roche has had an azide-free route available since 2000, I'm thinking the process change is more than trivial. The Chemical and Engineering News article is much more informative, if you have access to that journal, and you like chemical structures.

  • by nagora (177841)
    Pity it hardly works at all on the current strain and probably won't work at all on the mutated form everyone's worried about.

    TWW

    • Er no, there is some evidence of resistance in some strains, but the majority seem to be susceptible to the drug. Resistance could be a problem, but that's by no means certain and the indication is rather against that if anything. Tamiflu has been used routinely now in Japan for several years against normal flu and while there has been occassional resistance arising, it's not been sustained in the wild suggesting that it's selected against in practice.

      The mechanism for drug resistance in viruses is rather
  • In case you don't want to go look at Wikipedia, azides are high-energy nitrogen-nitrogen bonds that are unstable, hard to make, and hard to handle. There are some (common) metals that can cause azides to form spontaneously combustible (aka hypergolic) compounds, which is a problem if your processing system contains impurities of that metal in the tubing or gaskets.
    In contrast, butadiene is a major industrial chemical used in making synthetic rubber, for which we have well-understood handling and manufactur
  • that predisposes them to getting the avian flu. [cnn.com] From the article:

    Kida explained that people infected with H5N1 have a carbohydrate receptor on cells lining their throats. The receptor -- called alpha 2,3 -- is predominantly found in birds. Avian influenza viruses like to bind to this class of receptors to replicate and cause disease.

    . . . . .

    Human influenza viruses, however, prefer to bind to another receptor called alpha 2,6, which is dominant in humans.

    Kida is now trying to look for H5N1

  • Whether the H5N1 thing is hype or not, someone discovering easier ways to synthesise anti-viral drugs is a Good Thing.

    Eventually there IS going to be another flu pandemic, the way the virus mutates and our global society assure us of it, the real question is is it going to kill millions of people or just give everyone a lousy week of work. ;-)
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Friday May 05, 2006 @11:10AM (#15270205)
    I wonder what the side-effects of injecting acrylate and butadiene into a few million people would be. My suspicion is that there will be a low but non-zero reaction rate. And even 0.01% of 100,000,000 people adds up to a hundred thousand individuals sickened by a protective measure that might prove ineffectual. It also seems that there's a genetic factor at play with bird flu susceptibility - some infected families were hit harder as a group than others who caught the same illness at the same time and place.

    If I try on my tinfoil hat for a moment, it seems that the only winner in a Tamiflu stockpiling situation will be the manufacturer. We can be almost certain that the "next big pandemic" will blind side us. That is, after all, the nature of pandemics. It'll be a mutated form of *something*, probably something quite benign.

  • There are several companies which have been developing H5N1 (bird flu) vaccine for a while. The (unnamed) company I work for is one. We actually have a massive stockpile of the stuff, but there are a couple of problems with developing H5N1 vaccine at this stage of its pandemic (FYI, it's Pandemic Stage 4, out of 6 possible stages, with 6 being a global catastrophe).

    First, the H5N1 virus we know today is not a serious threat to humans. In order to progress to Pandemic 5, it must mutate so that it is conta

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