Stopping the flu’s spread starts in nose

It might be possible to stop the flu from spreading to the lungs and causing a serious infection by targeting the common virus in the nose.


Researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity have, for the first time, discovered the nasal passage is home to virus-fighting white blood cells that when switched on can block inhaled influenza particles from spreading.

Essentially, they have discovered how to stop influenza “at the gates”.

Professor Linda Wakim says immunising the upper respiratory tract with a nasal spray could be key to preventing many cases of pneumonia in Australia.

It could also mean that down the track that the annual flu jab could become a thing of the past.

Pneumonia is among the top 15 contributing causes of death nationally and among the top five leading causes of hospitalisation in Australia.

The influenza virus is a leading cause of the very serious lung infection.

Previous influenza research has focused on these flu-fighting T cells, central to the immune system, in lung tissue.

But these cells decay too quickly to be useful in developing a vaccine, says Professor Wakim.

“What we have found that these same cells exist in the nasal tissue, they persist for a very long time.

“I guess it’s not surprising that they are there but we are the first ones to show that they are there,” said Prof Wakim.

Subsequent studies on mice showed that these CD8 T cells have the capacity to “quench an influenza virus” before it can actually move down into the lung.

“We found a population of these cells that, unlike their cousins in the lung, persisted for a very long time, and that they could block inhaled virus particles from reaching the lung, preventing severe flu-related lung infections.”

“We are now trying to work out the best way to lodge these flu-fighting resident memory T cells in the nasal tissue, with the ultimate goal of developing a new vaccine that can provide long term protection against flu viruses,” Prof Wakim said.

Faecal transplants could prove link between mind and gut

The theory that the trillions of microbes living in the human gut are in constant communication with the brain affecting the way a person feels has been strengthened thanks to the increasing prevalence of faecal transplants.


Anecdotal evidence that recipients of a faecal transplant – a procedure to restore the gut microbiota – mimick the mood and other characteristics of their donor will be presented at the Royal Australasians College of Physicians (RACP) annual Congress in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Associate Professor Patrick Charles from the Department of Infectious Diseases at Austin Health says they have heard of some “very interesting” things from faecal transplant recipients, including stories about patients experiencing fluctuations in mood.

This week on Insight

“There have even been reports that patients with no prior history of depression have become depressed after receiving a transplant from someone with depression,” he said.

“There have also been cases where dramatic body changes have occurred – both rapid weight gain and weight loss, each time aligned to the donor.”

A faecal microbiota transplant, sometimes known as an FMT, is a procedure which replaces the ‘gut bacteria’ in an unhealthy individual with those of someone who is healthy.

Essentially, it involves taking ‘healthy’ poo from a donor and using it to create a liquid preparation that is then transplanted into the patient, normally via a colonoscopy.

It is becoming increasingly popular for the treatment of multiple conditions including chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s and autism.

Typically its performed to treat someone with Clostridium difficile infections when antibiotics fail.

Despite more research being needed, Ass Prof Charles says its only now that scientists are beginning to recognise and understand the influence of the microbiome on both the mind and body.

“We’re still really only just scratching the surface of what impacts microbiomes have on health and disease but as DNA sequencing techniques advance so will our understanding of their role,” he said.

0:00 Share

Tuesday’s Insight with Dr Michael Mosley looks at how changing our gut bacteria can alter our overall health | 6 June, 8.30pm SBS

Jihadists occupy civilian homes as Mosul battle rages

After jihadists turned the roof of his house into a sniper position, Owayid Mohammed and his family fled west Mosul in an escape that made him feel “reborn”.


“The Dawaesh took my house… and brought four snipers to the roof,” said Mohammed, using a pejorative name for members of the Islamic State jihadist group which seized the city in 2014.

“We stayed near them for about a week and moved from house to house,” the 75-year-old man said.

Related reading

“When we saw that the army was getting close to us, we trusted in God” and fled, Mohammed walking with the aid of a crutch.

He and his family joined hundreds of thousands of people who have fled their homes since the massive operation to retake Mosul from IS was launched last October.

Iraqi forces have since retaken all but a handful of areas around Mosul’s Old City, but the jihadists are fighting in densely populated areas, and have used civilians as human shields at various points in the battle.

The United Nations warned last week that up to 200,000 civilians may still be trapped in IS-held areas, facing shortages of food, water and medicine as well as deadly danger from the battle for the city.

Mohammed and his family were in some ways lucky they were not forced to stay in their house after IS deployed the snipers – circumstances that led to one of the deadliest single incidents for civilians during the Mosul campaign.

In Mosul al-Jadida, another area on the city’s western side, the US carried out an air strike targeting two snipers on the roof of building.

Watch: Suspected white phosphorus over Mosul

0:00 Share

‘Out of the fire’

The blast detonated IS explosive material in the building, killing 101 civilians inside it, while four more died in an adjacent building.

Like many civilians who have fled Mosul, Mohammed recalled with sadness the circumstances people face in the city.

“In our lives, we have never seen something like this… For four days, we were sleeping without eating,” he said.

But his sadness quickly dissipated: “I was able to get out, and I consider myself to have been reborn.”

He is not alone in celebrating his escape.

“I came out of the fire to paradise… I feel like I am a queen,” said Sara Adham, another septuagenarian who had recently left Mosul.

She fled with her son and daughter days after the jihadists stormed her house, which was on the front line with Iraqi forces.

“They removed the door of the house and entered the upper floor while we were hiding in the basement,” Adham said.

“My son heard a noise and I said to him that maybe it was a cat, and after the noise got louder, I went up to look and found one of the Dawaesh in front of me, and he demanded that we leave the house.”

Adham tried to refuse, but the jihadists threatened to kill her son, so they fled.

Mohammed Abdullah, 43, said the jihadists “tightened their patrols and restricted our movements, threatening to move into our houses if they suspected we intended to escape”.

“I agreed with my neighbours to leave whatever the cost, because the situation was intolerable.”

Related reading

Journalist describes narrow escape from ‘demented’ London attackers

BBC Journalist Holly Jones has described the horror of the weekend’s London terror attacks after a van carrying the three perpetrators mowed down pedestrians around her, missing her by only a meter or two.


“The van was zig-zagging along the pavement, and it looked like it was aiming – from my opinion – it was aiming for groups of people,” Ms Jones said on BBC TV.

The van hit two people five meters in front of her, she said, describing the chaotic scene.

“I don’t know how I did it, or what I did, but I got out of the way,” Mr Jones said.

“I remember moving, watching the van drive into the people that were behind me.”

She remembers a focused and “demented” look on the driver’s face, and the piercing screams of victims.

“I’ve never heard fear like it,” she said.


After the van had passed, she says she saw a scene of “indescribable” carnage.

Seven people died in the attack which left 48 injured, with attackers going on to stab people in restaurants nearby. 

They were shot dead by police eight minutes after the first emergency call was made.

Once the van had passed, Ms Jones ran to the assistance of an injured French-speaking woman who was frantically trying to find out what had happened to her boyfriend.

“I did whatever anyone else would have done in my situation,” Ms Jones said.

“I’m happy that I was there to help.”

Ms Jones was one of the first to call the emergency services, and has been interviewed by police.

Her message to Londoners is not to be scared, not to be angry and to stand together in defiance.

“I am just so grateful and thankful for everything I have, just so, so lucky,” she said.

“I will never take my life for granted.”

Australian describes near miss in London attack

0:00 Share


Owen Wright out of Fiji Pro surfing

Australian surfer Owen Wright has suffered a shock early exit at the Fiji Pro on returning to the scene of his greatest performance.


Sitting equal-second in the world championship standings, Wright was eliminated in the third round by Ian Gouveia at Cloudbreak on Monday.

Wright recorded a combined score of 15.26 from his two-best waves to his Brazilian opponent’s 15.66 in two-metre waves.

Two years ago in Fiji, Wright became the first man to record a perfect 20 score twice at the same event on the way to winning the 2015 title.

He missed his title defence – and all the rest of last season – after a head injury suffered in the 2015 finale at Pipeline in Hawaii.

His comeback season was in full swing to sit equal second on the 2017 championship standings having won March’s Gold Coast pro but Monday’s disappointment will see him fall down the rankings.

In better news for Australians, Julian Wilson and Matt Wilkinson won their third-round heats.

Wilson knocked out Portugal’s Frederico Morais, while world no.5 Wilkinson beat Brazil’s Miguel Pupo.

Three-time world champion Mick Fanning of Australia will meet Tahitian Michel Bourez in the third round.

Earlier on Monday, Australia’s world no.12 Adrian Buchan was eliminated by Italian Leonardo Fioravanti in round two.

But countryman Stuart Kennedy fared better with an upset win over Hawaii’s Ezekiel Lau, who sits 16 places above him in the standings.

In an all-Australian second-round heat, Bede Durbidge eliminated Josh Kerr and faces American Kolohe Andino in the third round.

American legend Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion, beat rising Australian Ethan Ewing in the second round to set up a clash against another Aussie, Connor O’Leary.