Wednesday, April 29, 2009

From the comments: Is the bioengineering theory really rubbish?

Doxocopa writes:

"Complete rubbish???

For a start... still, not yet a SINGLE PIG INFECTION was reported, as far as I'm aware. Could you please answer two things?
1 - If no pigs seem to be affected at all, how on earth a pig flu virus turned suddenly to a human airborne disease? - First human cases from other species Flu virus begun by direct contact with the infected animals
2 - This virus is indeed a genetic chimera; independently of what people think about its origins, so probably can infect humans, pigs and birds, so how can it survive in Nature without an epidemiological reservoir?"

Hi Doxocopa,

Thanks for commenting.  Yes, actually: it's complete rubbish.  But I can certainly understand why the situation would be confusing to someone who hasn't studied the flu... especially because this strain was unfortunately saddled with the misnomer "swine flu."  What we're really all paying attention to right now is a HUMAN flu with swine-, avian- and human-flu progenitors.

This flu has four grandparents, if you will: two from different regions of swinelandia, one from birdlandia, and one from humanistan –and it LIVES in humanistan: really, it’s a human flu, even if it is an immigrant.

So, to answer question 1:

What does it mean that we haven’t seen any cases in pigs yet?  It could mean any one of a number of different things:

1. The virus may cause asymptomatic infection in pigs or cause only very mild symptoms.  That is, they might get infected and be able to spread the disease (both to humans and other pigs) without showing any sign of having the disease.

2. It may be that the cases in pigs have simply been missed, even if the disease was severe.  There are a number of diseases that cause illness in pigs, including “normal” swine flu, and the affected farmers may not have recognized that anything new was happening.  We can’t be sure yet where the virus first emerged, but there may simply not be a very robust veterinary public health surveillance infrastructure in the country of origin.

3. The recombination may have occurred a human, instead of a pig.  We are also capable of being infected by human, swine and avian flu strains.

4. Even if the recombination DID occur in pigs, that doesn’t mean that the new virus was best-suited to reproducing in pigs vs. humans.  Remember, the pig in question would have been infected by 2 or more strains of flu at the same time; its immune system was likely compromised.  A compromised immune system may be the reason it was infected by more than one flu strain in the first place.  Even if not, the infections, themselves, would have worn down its immune response. (Secondary bacterial pneumonia is what usually kills most people who are killed by seasonal influenza.) 

If this is true, even if the virus was better-suited to humans than pigs, the virus may have reproduced sufficiently in this one pig to infect a human handler and enter into circulation in the human population.  It might never have been, and might never be, primarily a disease of pigs.


As for question 2:

What is the “epidemiological reservoir?”  Humans appear to be the primary host species for this virus.  That’s why I saw “swine flu” is really a misnomer.  As far as anyone knows right now, this is solely a disease of humans, and WE are how the virus is “surviv[ing] in nature.”

What's more, this virus would be a profoundly stupid bioweapon.  No one would benefit from it.

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