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Spanish flu vaccine late, but welcome

Rating

3 Star

Spanish flu vaccine late, but welcome

Our Review Summary

This article presents interesting scientific work that has resulted in regeneration of the Spanish flu virus of 1918-1919 and two approaches that were successful in producing a 100% effective immune response in mice challenged with the regenerated flu virus. 

Although this story did mention that the study results were 'proof of concept', this may not be a familiar notion for most readers and the story was not explicit that the vaccines developed afforded protection from this particular flu to mice and may or may not have direct translation to humans.  In fact, the study mentioned that the method of immunization is far less effective in humans than in the mouse model studied.  The story confuses species when it says, "Now, working with mice, scientists have shown that a vaccine can prompt the body's natural defenses to mount an attack on the virus–and that bodes well for future efforts to fight dangerous flu strains." (Emphasis added.) 

The article neglected to point out that existing antiviral drugs have shown to be of benefit in the mouse model for at least some forms of the Spanish Flu virus (genetically engineered).  The article suggests that we are defenseless and while that may be true, there is evidence to suggest otherwise. 

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

There was no estimate of costs for this treatment; however the study reported on work that was proof of concept and it is understandable that costs would not be discussed in such a story.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentioned that the two vaccines protected the exposed mice from infection, but failed to mention that research found that the protection resulted in 100% survival in vaccinated mice in comparison with 100% mortality for the mice that were not vaccinated. 
However – once again – the story did not clarify that the treatment has not been shown to be safe or effective in humans.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Applicable

From the journal article it is actually very difficult to determine if there were any toxicities noted in the research, however it does appear that all of the immunized animals survived.  But the journalist could have clarified this.  

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

Although this story did mention that the study results were 'proof of concept', this may not be a familiar notion for most readers and the story was not explicit that the vaccines developed afforded protection from this particular flu to mice and may or may not have direct translation to humans.  In fact, the study mentioned that the method of immunization is far less effective in humans than in the mouse model studied.  The story confuses species when it says, "Now, working with mice, scientists have shown that a vaccine can prompt the body's natural defenses to mount an attack on the virus–and that bodes well for future efforts to fight dangerous flu strains." (Emphasis added.)

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

This story did explain the virulence of the Spanish flu virus from 1918-1919 and that this particular Spanish flu strain has not been seen since until 2001 when it was constructed in the laboratory.  A researcher hypothesized that an equally virulent flu could kill as many as 100 million people worldwide.  The story was good to point out that this particular approach has relevance to individuals working in a laboratory setting where they might have exposure to this flu, as opposed to the population at large.  

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Satisfactory

One scientist, who was said to not be involved in the study, was briefly quoted about the potential importance of this scientific observation. 

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

This story did not mention any of the  FDA-approved antiviral medications that are currently available. The fact that current antiviral medications have shown activity against this virus and that this method of immunization may be less desirable in humans provided the reader with something less than full context.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story was less than clear that the vaccines were developed in and shown to be effective for mice.  There was no mention that the vaccines have not been assessed for benefit or harms to humans.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

This story correctly report on the novel result that scientists have created vaccines against the catastrophic Spanish flu but should have noted that the method of immunization is not as effective for humans as for mice.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

This story did not appear to be based solely or largely on a press release.

Total Score: 4 of 8 Satisfactory

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