'Bird Flu' and the emergence of Influenza Pandemics
Dr. Jose Varghese
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coherent X-Ray Science, CSIRO Molecular and Health Technologies
Friday 30th September 2005, 3.30PM, Seminar Room AR103, Graduate Research Centre.
Viral epidemics have posed a significant threat to humanity in the past (the ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1919 is thought to have killed ~40
million people worldwide), and pose a clear and present danger with emerging viruses like AIDS and SARS that have crossed species
barriers. In particular the so called bird flu poses a particularly dangerous threat to human health that many countries around
the world are attempting to prepare for the expected emergence of a new influenza pandemic. This is especially urgent since this
particular bird influenza is extremely virulent and has a mortality rate of close to fifty percent. However in spite of rapid
advances in biology, almost all viral diseases are refractory to treatment.
Vaccinations are the only method of preventative control, but they don’t offer treatment to people that are infected, and are
ineffective in controlling rapidly mutating viruses.
Furthermore countries like China, India, Russia and Japan, that are in or near the epicenters of emerging new strains are unable to
produce vaccines fast enough to be effective for their populations. Drugs that are designed using structural biology based methods
have offered for the first time treatment against some viral diseases, and have proved very effective against influenza. The emergence
of avian influenza pandemics will be discussed as will the recent development of anti-viral drugs for the treatment of influenza and
insights into the mechanism of drug resistance in viral diseases.
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