Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Indonesia Claims No Mutation In Latest Samples


# 1751



The year-long refusal of Indonesian officials, until very recently, to share H5N1 virus samples with the WHO (World Health Organization) has left huge gaps in our knowledge of how the virus is evolving. 



While there have been no obvious signs that dangerous mutations have  occurred in Indonesia - until the viruses can be genetically sequenced - it is impossible to know for sure.


Now, according to Indonesian officials, the first analysis has come back on samples provided to WHO from two bird flu patients - and they are quick to announce - `it hasn't mutated'.


A comforting, but scientifically imprecise assessment. 


Since influenza viruses are constantly mutating, it would probably be more accurate to say that `no obviously dangerous mutations were observed'.  


(This preassumes, of course, that we know all of the dangerous mutations on sight, which we probably don't.)


Still, this is encouraging news.  


And when coupled with the broader observation that the virus doesn't appear to be spreading any more efficiently than it was a year ago, probably reasonably accurate as well.


Since these samples cover only 2 out of more than 40 Indonesian bird flu cases last year,  more samples, and more analysis, is needed. 





Indonesia says H5N1 samples show no signs of mutation

Wed 5 Mar 2008, 11:13 GMT


HONGKONG/JAKARTA, March 5 (Reuters) - Bird flu virus samples that Indonesia sent to a World Health Organisation laboratory last month have not shown signs of any mutation, a health ministry spokeswoman said on Wednesday.


Scientists need to share and analyse H5N1 virus samples to see if they have mutated to become more easily passed between people as that could mean the start of a pandemic that can kill millions of people.


Such analyses are also needed in the making of vaccines, a chief weapon in the fight against a pandemic.


"CDC has received the samples and run tests on the samples. The result is it is still H5N1. It hasn't mutated. Meaning it is endemic among fowl and can be transfered from fowl to human," said Lily Sulistyowati, the health ministry's spokeswoman.


The lack of mutation means the virus remains hard for humans to catch. Worldwide, the virus has infected 368 people in 14 countries since 2003, killing 234 of them, or 64 percent.