New Nutrient-Based Approach Shows Promise Against Deadly Bird Flu Symptoms

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Clinician and Researcher Dr. Tim Guilford is investigating a promising new treatment for bird flu, which has potential for substantially reducing the mortality rate associated with H5N1 infections. Dr. Guilford explains his strategy in layman's terms during interview with Dr. Shoshana Zimmerman of Bird Flu Beacon.

One of the main causes of concern about H5N1 Avian Influenza (bird flu) is that approximately 1/2 of the confirmed cases have died. Experts attribute this mortality rate to an unfortunate immune response called a "cytokine storm." This often fatal side-effect is triggered when a virus gets past the frontline defenses and the immune system over-reacts. Dr. Guilford likens this occurrence to urban warfare, in which the weapons used to take out the enemy also inflict heavy civilian casualties. "Without instructions to back off, the immune system not only destroys the virus but the tissues around the virus, causing such acute respiratory distress (ARDS) that the immune system can readily kill the infected individual as well as the virus."

Describing the process in somewhat more clinical terms, Dr. Guilford says, “In a pandemic virus like H5N1 the body releases TNF (tumor necrosis factor) from immune and epithelial cells to help kill the virus. However, the virus produces a protein that causes the energy producing mitochondria of the cell, located in the cell’s nucleus, to become suddenly sensitized to TNF. This causes the mitochondria to break down and release substances that trigger rapid cellular death. While fighting a virus, excessive TNF can simultaneously attack cellular membranes and intercellular biochemical machinery. When enough of these mechanisms are compromised in the lungs, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) occurs, and it is ARDS that can lead to death from bird flu.”

Dr. Guilford notes the need to both strengthen the body's frontline defenses and to inhibit the damaging effects of a large-scale release of cytokines. He points out, “There is accumulating evidence indicating TNF is modulated by antioxidants in normal tissues, especially the antioxidant called reduced glutathione. People with acute respiratory distress syndrome have been tested to be low in reduced glutathione in lung fluid.”

These findings have put Dr. Guilford onto the trail of a potentially effective treatment for the disastrous effects of H5N1 infection. He is currently investigating the use of liposomal encapsulated reduced glutathione to maintain normal glutathione levels. He says, “Medical research to date has previously focused primarily on stopping replication and proliferation. However, if glutathione can be shown in clinical studies to modulate the cytokine storm, it will prove to be an effective and inexpensive approach to dealing with viral infections. Currently, we have very few medical tools for the cytokine storm, and this approach appears promising.”

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