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Advance Warning of H5N1 Influenza Outbreaks May Be Found in Shrimp Virus Reservoirs

BOSTON, Oct. 25, 2006 — Researchers at Replikins, Ltd.[1] have discovered that the shrimp viruses White Spot Syndrome virus (WSSV) and Taura Syndrome virus (TSV) – global lethal pathogens for shrimp – may be reservoirs for the peptide building blocks of H5N1, or bird flu virus.

The H5N1 virus recently has been responsible for huge poultry losses in many countries and for several hundred human cases, with approximately 50% mortality. While migratory waterfowl are known to transport the H5N1 influenza virus globally, no reservoirs for this virus have been identified[2].

Using FluForecast(R) proprietary technology, Replikins, Ltd. researchers have identified a new group of virus peptides of specific structure, called "replikins." The concentration of replikins in a virus (quantitative Replikin Count) has been shown to be related to rapid replication, and to be increased in epidemics and in the last three influenza pandemics[1]. Quantitative determination of the concentration of virus replikins by FluForecast(R), the company’s proprietary software, has made it possible to predict in advance the recent H5N1 outbreaks[1].

Replikins, Ltd. researchers found that shrimp viruses also contained replikins, and asked if there might be a relation between shrimp viruses and H5N1 influenza virus in waterfowl.

Using FluForecast(R), the following findings were obtained which suggest that shrimp viruses may serve as one reservoir of replikin peptide building blocks for H5N1 and other influenza strains:

1) Shrimp viruses WSSV and TSV were found to contain replikin peptide sequences.

2) These shrimp virus sequences were found to be related in structure to the replikin peptide sequences in H5N1 virus.

3) Shrimp WSSV replikins increased markedly in concentration in the year 2000, just before the increase in H5N1 virus Replikin Counts which preceded the H5N1 outbreaks in chickens and humans of 2001-20061. The increase in shrimp virus Replikin Count was not trivial: In shrimp WSSV, which in dormant states was found to be less than 10 in the year 2000, reached 103.8. This is comparable only to the highest Count so far observed in any organism in nature. (The highest Replikin Count to date of 111 has been observed in the malaria species, pl. falciparum, which replicates 11,000 times in 48 hours passing from liver to blood in the host.)

4) Of the new shrimp replikins which appeared in 2000, the percent which were short peptides was increased compared to dormant years. Short replikins previously have been found to be related to high virulence and high mortality in the host, whether animal or man.

5) These short shrimp virus replikins share structures with short replikins in both H5N1 and other influenza strains going back 88 years to the great pandemic of 1918.

A related example of virus reservoir activity in which the replikin concentration was increased preceding an outbreak was found in the corona viruses as a group. The Replikin Count of the corona virus group increased markedly in 2002 before the outbreak of one of its members, SARS, in 2003[1]. In another study, further confirming the relationship of Replikin Count to rapid replication, studies on replikins in two strains of human HIV-1 virus have shown that the Replikin Count of a rapidly replicating strain is sixfold greater than that of a slowly replicating strain. No instances of rapid replication have been observed in all the organisms examined in which the Replikin Count was not significantly increased compared to the Count in the dormant state.

Advance forecasts of virus outbreaks, now possible with FluForecast(R), have not previously been possible. The relation of Replikin Count to rapid replication will be further used to examine virus reservoirs in both poultry and aquatic organisms for coming influenza outbreaks in animals and humans. Such forecasts now may permit time for preventive public health measures to be mobilized and safer strain-specific vaccines to be synthesized, tested, and mass produced.

Replikins, Ltd. is providing FluForecast(R) services to others. The "Replikins Group" has been formed with a number of university, government, and pharmaceutical institutes to test new synthetic Replikin vaccines developed by Replikins, Ltd. which target rapid replication in emerging viruses and a range of other infectious diseases.

References

1. Website: http://www.Replikins.com.

2. Check, E. On Border Patrol. Nature 442,348-350, 27 July, 2006.

Contact:

Carol Zepp
(978) 500-5030
Email

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