DETROIT The recent H1N1 flu pandemic was found to be particularly dangerous to obese people, and a Wayne State University researcher is looking for clues as to why.
Emily Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor of pharmacy practice in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has begun interviewing people hospitalized with influenza to study how weight impacts their illness, response to treatment, and recovery.
"The H1N1 was an unusual flu in that it affected middle-aged adults at higher rates than normal," Martin said. "Among that group, people with really high weight were more likely to die or have severe outcomes if they got the flu."
Obesity accounted for five of the six deaths from influenza at Detroit Medical Center (DMC) facilities in the 2010-11 season.
Martin's project, "Influenza and Obesity: A Prospective Study of Patient Outcomes and Antiviral Resistance," is supported by a one-year, $10,000 grant from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. She plans to meet with 120 DMC patients 18 years of age and older at all weights who have suffered flu symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
The study will monitor progression of their illness, especially pulmonary manifestations, which can land patients on ventilators or in intensive care.
Researchers will take nasal samples to determine specific characteristics of the virus and how it evolves in subjects' bodies over the first three days in the hospital. Among the characteristics to be examined is the virus's resistance to oseltamivir, a drug more commonly known as Tamiflu, which is used to treat the flu.
Martin's team will check the RNA sequence of the flu virus, as well as genetic components of an array other undiagnosed respiratory viruses patients may have.
"Depending on the population being examined, about one-third of the time other viruses are lurking in the background in these patients," she s
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Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research