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Swine flu 'affects lungs more than seasonal flu'

By Lilian Anekwe

The current swine flu virus may be more damaging to the respiratory system than normal seasonal flu, new research suggests.

Research in mice, ferrets, non-human primates and pigs by a team at the University of Wisconsin in the US found the swine flu virus causes more severe lung lesions, inflammation and respiratory damage than a contemporary human influenza virus.

But the study published in the journal Nature also found that despite the virus' increased severity in animal models, it was still susceptible to antiviral treatment, and all antivirus drugs tested, including Tamiflu, were effective in cell culture against the new virus.

The effect of the virus on the respiratory systems raises the suggestion that it may be able to penetrate deeper into the lungs and make complications, including pneumonia, more likely.

This strengthens the argument for patients with underlying health conditions, including asthma and other respiratory conditions, to receive the swine flu vaccine first once it becomes available in the autumn.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, also called for GPs to be first in line to receive the swine flu vaccine.

She said: ‘We should be keeping some of the vaccine back for frontline doctors, burses and any other healthcare staff, so that for the rest of us when we get ill there's someone to look after us.'

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