The critical part in the research is to understand how influenza virus spread and mutate and is the key to preventing pandemics by discovering preventive, diagnostic and treatment methods.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), influenza viruses that occur in animals can infect humans, and later develop to pandemic strains. Several research areas have been outlined by the WHO relating to the animal/human influenza interface that could have a profound impact on protecting human being.
The Working Group of WHO on Influenza Research at the Animal/Human Interface was setup in 2005 to encourage basic studies into animal influenza viruses, with the aim to find out the cause the viruses can infect people.
Studies are on-going on avian influenza viruses, particularly H5N1. Researchers aim to discover the prevalence of avian influenza viruses in domestic animals and birds, understand the molecular basis of transmission of viruses from animals to people, assess the role of migratory birds in the transmission of the viruses, and evaluate the human immune response to infection with avian influenza viruses.
Studies are also being done on H1N1, a novel strain which is the causative factor of the current influenza A pandemic and researchers succeeded developed a vaccine which approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
PUTTING VACCINES TO THE TEST
The scientists from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) play an important role and work in collaboration with medical research institutions worldwide to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat seasonal and pandemic influenzas, including influenza A (H1N1).
The trial is being conducted through the NIAID-funded national network of Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Units (VTEUs). Safety data will be collected and assessed continuously throughout the trial by an independent safety monitoring committee and investigators.
STUDYING THE NATURE OF THE FLU VIRUS
Other than vaccine research, NIAID scientists are also investigating the basic biology of influenza. The data collected will assist in designing diagnostics that are more accurate and faster, cost-effective and portable. NIAID is also investigating host immune responses to the virus in animal models and people, and studying influenza epidemiology.
For treatment, NIAID supports research being conducted to develop new and effective drug combinations and examine the mechanisms behind emerging drug resistance. This effort is supported by innovative new technologies to design drugs that target specific cellular processes and viral proteins.