SARANAC LAKE, N.Y., May 6 (UPI) -- The H1N1 flu may be dangerous for healthy, young adults because it contains genetic components of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, U.S. researchers say.
The flu contains genetic components of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which can induce a "cytokine storm," in which a patient's hyperactivated immune system causes potentially fatal damage to the lungs.
David L. Woodland, editor in chief of Viral Immunology and president of Trudeau Institute Inc. in Saranac Lake, N.Y., says a cytokine storm occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to an intruder, such as a virus, by producing high levels of cytokines, which are signaling chemicals that help mobilize immune cells capable of removing infectious agents from the body.
When too many cytokines are produced, they can stimulate an inflammatory response in which the accumulation of immune cells and fluid at the site of infection may prevent affected tissues and organs such as the lungs from functioning properly and may cause death, Woodland says.
What is known is that some H1N1 viruses have pandemic potential and that historical evidence supports the possibility that healthy young adults may be especially susceptible to more severe infection and poor outcomes due to the ability of a strong immune system to initiate a cytokine storm, Woodland adds.