Researchers At TTU Helping Fight Asian Bird Flu - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/7/05

Researchers At TTU Helping Fight Asian Bird Flu

The Asian Bird Flu has killed millions of animals and 46 humans in Southeast Asia. A drug to combat the disease is being developed right here in Lubbock. NewsChannel explains how Texas Tech Researchers are creating a drug to attack the virus when it's contracted by a human.

"People in West Texas and everywhere in the world should be very concerned that the virus does not make the transfer that would make it person to person, human to human-type of infectious disease," explains Dr. Julian Spallholz, Professor at Texas Tech's Department of Nutrition

Researchers at the university are gearing up to fight a global threat: The Bird flu. Dr. Spallholz is working with the Asian government to find ways to prevent the virus from spreading. His solution: pumping up the amount of the mineral selenium. "That they take a look at the selenium levels in their commercial feed operations. If selenium is not available to animals then these animals have a higher risk of viral mutations," explains Dr. Spallholz. Mutations that could turn the Bird Flu into a strain of human flu. Increase in selenium intake would strengthen human and animal resistance to the disease. "Selenium is just one answer to a very large and difficult problem," he adds.

The other answer: a drug to treat the Bird Flu. Dr. Spallholz says researchers at Texas Tech are working on developing a drug that could actually attack the virus. "There is some drug developments actually going on here in Lubbock," he says.

Health officials say few humans have been infected, less than 50. But the death rate is high, killing 7 out of 10 infected and if it's not controlled, the death toll could reach millions. "It could rival the pandemic, so called Spanish flu of 1918 in which several millions, even in the U.S. died at that time," adds Dr. Spallholz.

Researchers say it could be up to a year before the development of the bird flu drug is complete.

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