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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Alcohol and other drugs knowledge centre Yarning Places

Indigenous Australians vulnerable to new flu strains according to University of Melbourne researchers

Date posted: 7 January 2014

Indigenous Australians may be particularly vulnerable to a new Chinese flu virus, according to Melbourne researchers.

The H7N9 virus emerged in China in February last year and infected 137 people, killing 45.

University of Melbourne scientists say common features of flu viruses might allow people with the right genetic background to resist serious infection even though they lacked antibodies to fight a novel virus such as H7N9. This genetic advantage is most pronounced among Europeans, followed by Asians and Africans, but least developed in Indigenous Australians and Indigenous Alaskans.

It is hoped a universal T-cell vaccine can be developed to help protect people who may be particularly vulnerable to new flu strains such as H7N9.

'What we propose is that a T-cell vaccine would be a complement of the annual vaccine,' said Associate Professor Katherine Kedzierska. 'It is what we call a universal immunity, which means it would give us some level of protection against several different strains and sub-types of influenza viruses including those that emerge and are not predicted by the current antibody-mediated vaccine strains.'

'It is the case that Indigenous Australians were badly affected by the 2009 swine influenza,' Professor Peter Doherty said.

The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National academy of sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Source: ABC News, The Australian


Last updated: 7 January 2014
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