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Elsevier Author Robert Rich, MD: What Immunology Can Tell Us About Catching (up To) The Flu Virus

PHILADELPHIA, Jan, 9, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The United States is currently suffering a flu season that the Centers for Disease Control has described as the earliest since 2003-2004. Some 2,257 people have been hospitalized and 18 children have died from complications as of December 29, 2012. The CDC reports high rates of flu activity in 29 states characterized by an H3N2 strain that is associated with severe flu seasons.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130109/PH39861 )

In 2013, why does influenza persist and remain so difficult to control?

"The flu virus has an extraordinary capacity to reassort its genes and develop mutations that stay one step ahead of us," says Robert R. Rich, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and editor of Clinical Immunology: Principles and Practice, [4 th Edition, Elsevier, December, 2012]."It's what we're up against every year when a new strain emerges.  Then the pharmaceutical companies race to make enough vaccine as it is circulating around the globe."

"The real challenge is to find something that would be molecular targets displayed on the surface of the virus that the immune system could attack, but that were stable throughout the process of gene reassortment and mutation and thus wouldn't be subject to change," Rich says. "There are a number of different candidates being evaluated, but none are yet available." 

In the text, Clinical Immunology systematically surveys the major organ systems that have immunological disease and the major diseases that have immune basis and tries to draw common threads. "For example, as we understand diabetes better, how does that impact understanding of multiple sclerosis? That's the strength of the text –- our effort to address diverse diseases from their scientific commonalities," Rich says.

The immune system is a strong target for translational research, as it takes fundamental science and tries to apply it as broadly as possible to a variety of diseases, he adds.

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