33MD for February 23, 2009

POSTED: Monday, February 23, 2009 - 6:33pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:57pm

Here’s good news for people who suffer every winter, from the flu. Scientists say they’ve found a new way to fight influenza. Details from NBC’s chief science correspondent Robert Bazell.

Scientists have found a way to attack the flu virus that could eventually eliminate many of the problems and fears from seasonal influenza as well as the treat of bird flu. Dr. Wayne Marasco of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute says, “We have identified a new area on the influenza virus that acts as an Achilles heal. The virus does not have the ability to evade the immune system when the immune system is directed to this area.”

The scientists have managed to make some antibodies to that Achilles heals that could work as both a treatment and the basis for new universal vaccines. SU Bridge Influenza sickens millions in the United States every year and its complications kill an estimated 36,000. In addition, there is the constant threat of bird flu or some other type mutating to cause a pandemic, a huge outbreak of a strain to which humans have no immunity.

That is what happened in 1918 when the so-called Spanish Flu killed at least 20 million people worldwide. A universal vaccine would eliminate that threat along with the problems that often occur because the seasonal flu shot does not match the virus that is circulating through the population. So far the scientists have only studied human flu in mice, but the research is moving so quickly they believe they will have experimental vaccines and treatments for people as soon as three years from now.

Dairy and other calcium-rich foods are not only good for strong bones, they could also protect against cancer. Data on nearly a half million adults shows a high calcium intake is associated with a lower risk for colorectal and other digestive cancers. The effect was particularly strong among women. Women who consumed the most calcium had a lower risk for cancer overall. The Institute of Medicine Recommends people over age 50 get 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day or three servings.