HEALTH

NIH study suggests reason for flu to flourish in winter

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. A finding by a team of scientists at the National Institutes of Health may account for why the flu virus is more infectious in cold winter temperatures than during the warmer months.

“The study results open new avenues of research for thwarting winter flu outbreaks,” stated National Institute of Child Health Development director Duane Alexander. “Now that we understand how the flu virus protects itself so that it can spread from person to person, we can work on ways to interfere with that protective mechanism.”

Briefly, at winter temperatures, the virus’s outer covering, or envelope, hardens to a rubbery gel that shields the virus as it passes from person to person. With warmer weather, however, the protective gel melts to a liquid phase. But this liquid phase, apparently, isn’t tough enough to protect the virus against the elements, and so the virus loses its ability to spread from person to person.

The findings were published online March 2 in Nature Chemical Biology. The study was a collaboration between researchers at two NIH institutes, the NICHD, and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Senior author Joshua Zimmerberg, chief of NICHD’s Laboratory Of Cellular And Molecular Biophysics found that at temperatures slightly above freezing, the virus’s lipid covering solidified into a gel. When temperatures reached about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the covering began to thaw, and the covering turned to a soupy mix.

Cooler temperatures, apparently, cause the virus to form the rubbery outer covering that can withstand travel from person to person. Once in the respiratory tract, the warm temperature in the body causes the covering to melt to its liquid form, so that the virus can infect the cells of its new host.

“Like an M&M in your mouth, the protective covering melts when it enters the respiratory tract,” Zimmerberg said. “It’s only in this liquid phase that the virus is capable of entering a cell to infect it.

In spring and summer, however, the temperatures are too high to allow the viral membrane to enter its gel state. The individual flu viruses apparently dry out and weaken, and the flu season wanes.

The finding opens up new possibilities for future research, Zimmerberg said. Strategies to disrupt the virus and prevent it from spreading could involve seeking ways to disrupt the virus’s lipid membrane.

In cold temperatures, the hard lipid shell can be resistant to certain detergents, so one strategy could involve testing for more effective detergents and hand-washing protocols to hinder the spread of the virus.

Similarly, Zimmerberg theorizes that in areas affected by a severe form of the flu, people might better protect themselves against getting sick by remaining indoors at warmer temperatures than usual.

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Study shows only strict compliance to ginko biloba regimen has effect

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, on Wednesday published a study that found that ginkgo biloba extract neither altered the risk of progression from normal to clinical dementia rating, nor protected against a decline in memory function unless those supplementing with gingko were strictly compliant with a regimen of gingko.

In addition, more stroke and transient ischaemic attacks were observed among the group supplementing with ginkgo biloba, which may necessitate further study to confirm the findings, study authors suggested.

The randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 42-month pilot study was conducted in 188 cognitively-intact subjects 85 and older. The amount of ginkgo used to supplement was not disclosed in the published abstract.

In a secondary analysis, where study authors controlled the medication adherence level, the group supplementing with gingko did have a lower risk of progression from normal to clinical dementia rating, and a smaller decline in memory scores.

“Results of larger prevention trials taking into account medication adherence may clarify the effectiveness of [gingko supplementation],” study authors concluded. “[And] more stroke and TIA cases observed among the GBE group requires further study to confirm.”

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Tahitian Noni Juice with Acerola available in limited edition

BY Michael Johnsen

PROVO, Utah Tahitian Noni International, on Thursday announced the availability of a limited edition super fruit blend of Tahitian Noni Juice with Acerola, a juice that combines the benefits of noni with Acerola for an immune boost.

“Tahitian Noni Juice is the No. 1 selling noni-juice product in the world,” stated Shon Whitney, vice president of marketing for Tahitian Noni International. “This new flavor addition will give people the refreshing taste of Acerola and provide another reason to drink Tahitian Noni Juice for those who are looking for a high source of natural vitamin C.”

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