WebXtra: East Texas doctor decodes flu virus

By Morgan Chesky - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas doctor is on the front lines of figuring out the unknowns of the H1-N1 flu virus, previously known as swine flu. Its now been a week since the first reports of H1-N1 surfaced in the U.S. and doctors are still trying to figure out this unusual strain of influenza.

At the U.T. Health Science Center Dr. Amir Shams, specializes in microbiology and immunology. Leading a research team of doctors for the past year, Dr. Shams is conducting experiments testing animal models immune systems against various flu strains, including H1-N1.

Giving test subjects increased amounts of chemicals created naturally in the body called immunomodulators, Shams has been successful in keeping test subjects alive, exposing them to flu strains 100 times the lethal level.

But says the answer to H1-N1 is a tough one.

"Since this virus mutates very quickly, it's a kind of moving target for the scientists who are in the vaccine development to make a very kind of general vaccine against all the strains. The way we look at the situation is we want to have a generic prevention and even treatment for the virus."

Because of H1-N1 unique ability to mutate so quickly an anti viral medication could take years to create. Fortunately the W.D.C. should have the virus properties mapped out and better understood within a few weeks.

Shams says while doctors are on their way to figuring H1-N1 out, people should never put their guard down against influenza and take necessary precautions.

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