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Partial H1N1 immunity can come without exposure to virus


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The arrival and rapid spread of the latest strain of H1N1 flu virus, termed S-OIV, raised fears of a dangerous global pandemic. But, as the virus has continued to spread around the globe, initial fears regarding its potential lethality have gradually subsided; it can be deadly, but apparently no more so than the regular, seasonal flu. Some researchers have now used a public database of flu immunity data to try to understand why, and their results suggest that, on some level, the seasonal flu has prepared our immune systems for the new arrival.

As the researchers acknowledge in their paper, the work couldn't have taken place if it weren't for extensive data sharing within the community of flu virus researchers. There's an entire site, the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource that the National Institutes of Health funds; it tracks all data on the viral proteins that are recognized by the immune system, and the specific regions of these proteins that are bound by antibodies and T cell receptors. The authors even posted drafts of their paper on the site for community comment, and conclude that "this experience has demonstrated how 'real time' exchange of information on the Internet can catalyze the scientific process in the eye of an imminent public health threat."

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