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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ARTICLE: "The Immunology of Influenza Infection" by Kanta Subbarao, Brian R. Murphy, and Anthony S. Fauci. Immunity DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2005.12.005 (2006).

SPOKESPERSON: NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is available to discuss the article.

CONTACT: To schedule interviews, contact Kathy Stover in the NIAID Office of Communications and Public Liaison, 301-402-1663, kstover@niaid.nih.gov.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIAID supports basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.

News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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