June 19, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic: A Missed Opportunity for Researchers?

The swine flu outbreak has called for appropriate and immediate responses from leaders, health officials, virologists and the crucial research community. However, the research community needs to pick up their pace in order to still learn beneficial information from the outbreak, doctors argue in a recent Lancet editorial.

The World Health Organization recently declared a global influenza pandemic as a result of over 150 infection-related deaths. Response to the outbreak has been applauded across the globe. However, many argue the research community's actions are failing to keep up, described by some as "delayed and modest."

The H1N1 influenza pandemic has been the first since 1977. Study authors say researchers should be diving into investigation to look for what did and didn't work to keep the disease away. The study's authors -- from Vietnam, Mexico, the US and the UK -- have reported almost no patients with H1N1 have been recruited for clinical studies.

Little is known about the development and treatment of the H1N1 strain of influenza, and the medical community should take the current opportunity to obtain this information, authors suggest. They propose preparation for future outbreaks may include putting generic protocols in place, having ethical pre-crisis approvals, and having a well-funded cooperative global community.

SOURCE: The Lancet, June 18, 2009