The total border traffic of passengers at the entrance to the Republic of Croatia in October 2016 amounted to 5,9 million, which is 8,3% more than in October 2015, when 5,4 million passengers entered, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.The entry of domestic passengers increased by 5,4%, and foreign passengers by 10,0% compared to October 2015. Compared to October of the previous year, the data for October 2016 show an increase in the entry of passengers at road, rail, sea and border crossings on inland waterways and at air border crossings.In October 2016, the entry of passenger vehicles in road border traffic increased by 9,6%. Of that, the entry of personal vehicles increased by 9,7%, and the entry of buses by 1,8% compared to October of the previous year. Of the total number of passengers entering, 2,6 million passengers entered the road border crossings across the Croatian-Slovenian border, which is 10,6% more than in October 2015, and 2,0 million across the Croatian-Bosnian border, which is 0,4% more than in October 2015Road border crossings with a higher number of foreign passengers entering the Republic of Croatia in October 2016, which show an increase compared to the same month last year, are: Bregana (8,4%), Macelj (10,7%), Bajakovo (8,4%) ) and Kaštel (9,7%).
As of 1 January 2017, the threshold for taxpayers whose income from self-employment in crafts and agriculture and forestry, ie income tax can be determined on a lump sum basis, was raised and the circle of taxpayers who can determine income and income tax was expanded. in a lump sum to taxpayers who perform independent activity of catering and / or trade and taxpayers who have a separate business unit or production plant, with other prescribed conditions.Since this would expand the circle of taxpayers who would no longer have to issue invoices via electronic payment devices, the provision of the Act Amending the Cash Fiscalization Act (Official Gazette, No. 115/16), which enters into force on 1 July 2017 . years, the term “small taxpayer” has been deleted. From 1 July 2017, taxpayers who are currently carrying out fiscalisation through a bound book of invoices are obliged to carry out the process of fiscalisation of invoicing via electronic payment devices in accordance with Article 16 of the Cash Fiscalization Act (Official Gazette 133/12 and 115). / 16). The same implies that through the established Internet connection, they are obliged to submit every invoice, which is charged with funds that are considered cash according to the said Law, to the Ministry of Finance, Tax Administration for certification.So does the existing one taxpayers who pay the tax on income from self-employment as a lump sum, must adapt to the process of fiscalization of invoicing in such a way that they issue invoices via electronic payment devices. The tax administration points out that as of July 1, 2017 all taxpayers of fiscalization are obliged to submit data on business premises and data on the manufacturer / maintainer of the software solution electronically using the electronic service of the Tax Administration e-Tax. The taxpayer who submitted the data on business premises via XML message, is obliged to confirm them via the e-Tax service by 31 July 2017 and submit the data on the manufacturer / maintainer of the software solution.Taxpayers who start issuing invoices via electronic payment devices from 1 July 2017 are obliged to submit data on business premises and the manufacturer / maintainer of the software solution before sending the first invoice, also via the e-Tax service. All other taxpayers who are not users of e-Tax, they submit the stated data via the prescribed form to the competent branch office of the Tax Administration, also before sending the first invoice for verification. The bound book of invoices, which is certified by the Tax Administration, can still be used samo in case of failure of the toll device or inability to establish an Internet connection with the Tax Administration
LinkedIn Share on Facebook Pinterest Share Email A new Bournemouth University study, in collaboration with University of Portsmouth, has challenged conventional thinking that people’s attention is readily captured by other people’s faces above all other objects.The study tested three conditions where people observed footage of two women in a waiting room, with different groups told that they were watching a live webcam and either told they would or would not meet the women afterwards whilst others were told that the video had been pre-recorded.Explaining what they expected to see, Dr Gregory said: “We thought that when participants believed that they would be meeting the people in the scene, they would have their attention drawn towards the faces of those people more readily, and look where they looked more often, than the other two groups as the people would be most socially relevant to the participants”. “We also expected that in the condition which was least like real-life, when people thought the scene was pre-recorded, they would look least at the faces of the actors and follow their gaze direction the least.“However, we found the complete opposite. Regardless of whether they thought they would meet the people in the scene, when participants thought they were watching a live webcam they seemed to avoid looking at the faces of the people and hardly followed their direction of gaze at all even though the people in the scene could not see the participants. When participants thought the scene was pre-recorded, they looked at the faces and followed gaze direction of the actors much more.“Perhaps what we think we know about the way we view other people is wrong. As soon as viewing behaviour is measured within a genuinely social context, the way we look at people changes, and rather than having our attention drawn towards them, we actually seem to avoid looking at those people’s faces.“This likely reflects the complex interplay of factors which are present in a real social scenario, which are absent in most experimental studies, such as adhering to social rules and norms, or thinking about lots of different things at once, which causes us to look less at people than when we view pictures of them in the lab.“Psychologists need to start taking this into account in their research, which is really very rare at the moment to make sure that what we find out from our experiments can actually be applied to real-life behaviour. If it can’t then the value of it must be reassessed”.Nicola Gregory’s research provides fresh insight to this research field, taking place in a more natural and social context unlike the older studies. It also refutes previous work suggesting that people predominantly look at faces and automatically shift their attention in the direction that other people are looking.The study is published online in science and medicine journal PLOS ONE, a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making scientifically-useful literature freely available. Share on Twitter
LinkedIn Email Share on Twitter Krueger predicted 20 years ago that sleep originates in small networks of neurons and glia. He said this study supports the hypothesis and will allow sleep to be independently isolated for research without the intrusion of physiological factors like changing body temperature.The findings were recently published in the European Journal of Neuroscience. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke and the National Science Foundation.Sleep in a dishSleep clinics typically use EEG (electroencephalogram) measurements such as slow wave voltage (SW) and synchronization (SYN) to determine if a patient has fallen asleep. For the study, Krueger and Jewett used a number of readings including SW and SYN to determine sleep states of the mature cell cultures.Krueger said the normal state of cultured neurons is sleep-like. To drive them into deeper sleep, the researchers added tumor necrosis factor (TNF) to the petri dish, which also contained an array of EEG electrodes. TNF is an immune protein that helps regulate sleep and is found in all animals from fruit flies to humans.“TNF is also known to stabilize synapses – the junction between two neurons – so you don’t lose old memories and can simultaneously retain new memories,” he said.Krueger and Jewett reversed the effects of TNF and awakened the neurons by applying mild electrical stimulation. During this period, the cells displayed EEG signs equivalent to wakeful activity.When the researchers prolonged electrical stimulation, the cells responded with a miniature version of sleep homeostasis seen in animals; that is, after their extra activity, the nerve cells “slept in” the next day.“Everyone has experienced this type of homeostasis,” said Krueger. “If you stay up late one night, you sleep more the next night to catch up.”The researchers said the pathway for this sleep-wake cycle is consistent with the way sleep occurs in life. When the neuron cultures are activated they signal that activity by releasing ATP, which in turn releases TNF and another immune hormone called interleukin-1. Together they trigger the sleep phase.Running on three cylindersThe study builds on the work of former WSU neuroscientist David Rector who, in 2005, showed that individual cortical columns in the brain go to sleep and wake up at different times. His research confirmed that after a day of unusual exertion certain parts of the brain will continue sleeping the next day. In effect, you really can be “half asleep.”Rector and Krueger also showed that a cortical column could be driven into a sleep-like state by the application of TNF.Krueger said that although it is late in his 40-year career, his discovery of the neural networks is opening up exciting new fields in sleep research and will help address the elusive mystery of sleep function.“It is forcing scientists to see sleep as a small network property,” he said. “Before, people viewed sleep as a whole-brain phenomenon – using theories that often invoke, “a miracle occurs and then you go to sleep.”“In our theory, there is no miracle at all,” said Krueger. “Bits and pieces of the brain oscillate between sleep and wake-like states depending on how much activity they had the day before.“And the reason they do that is because synapses are activity dependent – the more you use them, the better they get,” he said. “While our bodies rest, sleep stabilizes the neural network and provides an alternate pattern of stimulation to help preserve our memories.” Share on Facebook Pinterest Washington State University Spokane scientists have grown a tiny group of brain cells that can be induced to fall asleep, wake up and even show rebound sleep after “staying up late.”The study – the first to document that sleep originates in small neural networks – opens the door to deeper understanding of the genetic, molecular and electrical aspects underlying sleep disorders.WSU Regents professor James Krueger and doctoral student Kathryn Jewett cultured neurons and glial cells that matured over two weeks into active neural networks exhibiting some of the same EEG sleep patterns seen in the brains of animals. The networks are the simplest unit of sleep identified to date. Share
Share on Twitter Share Pinterest Email Share on Facebook LinkedIn Comparisons of cognitive performance in 30 people with TLE-HS and 27 age- and gender-matched healthy participants revealed that patients with TLE-HS were less likely to recall the names of unfamiliar people, places where personal items were stored or detailed stories. Patients with TLE-HS also had difficulty orienting themselves in time and space. The authors further report that cognitive performance was significantly lower in patients with poor seizure control and those taking multiple antiepileptic drugs.“We found that patients with TLE-HS had deficits in everyday memory functions, including significant impairments in daily activities that are not evaluated in a standard neuropsychological evaluation. These impairments can make it difficult for patients to socially adapt and should receive greater attention in the neuropsychological evaluation of patients with memory complaints. Everyday memory evaluation does not replace the traditional neuropsychological tests, but adds valuable information regarding memory complaints and guide rehabilitation,” says author Kette Valente, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the Laboratory of Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of São Paulo Medical School.In a second study, (abstract 3.312) researchers from the Federal University of São Paulo show that reduced cell density in certain parts of the hippocampus may be linked to deficits in short- and long-term memory in certain patients with TLE-HS.The researchers evaluated memory and language in 72 patients with TLE-HS who were undergoing pre-operative evaluation, then examined samples of brain tissue that were removed from the hippocampus during epilepsy surgery. They report that performance on all elements of the neuropsychological tests was worse in patients with degeneration on the right side of the hippocampus compared with the left side.“Despite the fact that the literature describes only correlation between verbal memory tests and hippocampal cell densities in patients with left hippocampal sclerosis, we found a correlation between right hippocampal cell densities and performance on visual memory tests, including both immediate and delayed recall,” says authors Sandra Mara Comper and Anaclara Prada Jardim, students in the laboratory of Dr. Elza Marcia Yacubian at the Federal University of São Paulo.A third study (abstract 3.244) finds that large brain function networks are affected by focal forms of epilepsy. Researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the General Hospital of Mexico and Centro Estatal de Salud Mental (CESAM), Queretaro studied patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and healthy participants, using fMRI to monitor brain activity in the cerebral cortex while the groups completed an activity known as Sternberg’s task, which assesses working memory. The brain activity was then analyzed along with participants’ performance on a neuropsychological evaluation. The groups exhibited similar brain activity despite the observation that patients with epilepsy required significantly longer times to complete the task, and in epilepsy patients (but not in controls) there were specific brain regions that showed a direct relation between their level of activity and the patient’s cognitive performance metrics.“Our results show that while patients have relatively small deficits in working memory, the activity of the cortical networks that support such a function are predictive of their performance,” says author Vicente Camacho, M.D., and a Masters student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.A fourth study finds that a generalized seizure leads to diminished short and long-term memory by interfering with key signaling pathways in the brain. It is well known that seizures produce learning, memory and behavioral deficits, and that they trigger abnormally high activity of two signaling pathways in the brain: the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) cascades. But whether abnormal signaling is to blame for these deficits remains unclear.Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and the Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation Laboratories explored the effects of seizure activity on short- and long-term memory in a rat model of epilepsy. The researchers also tested whether learning and memory deficits could be corrected using drugs that calm the overactive signaling cascades. They report that signaling activity remained high 3 hours after a seizure, but returned to normal levels within 24 hours. Seizures induced significant deficits in short as well as long-term memory. The memory deficits that could be partially corrected using the drug wortmannin, which inhibits PI3K and mTOR.“Studies are underway to reveal how seizures affect various types of memory and to explore the associated molecular signaling and morphological alterations,” says author Angela Carter, a predoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Anne Anderson at the Baylor College of Medicine. Four studies presented at the American Epilepsy Society’s (AES) 69th Annual Meeting uncover the biological factors that mediate memory decline in people with epilepsy, particularly those with seizures that affect the temporal lobe.Loss of neurons from the hippocampus, a brain region that processes and stores memories, is a common cause of temporal lobe epilepsy. People with temporal epilepsy caused by hippocampal sclerosis (TLE-HS) have impaired memory and find it particularly challenging to recall details of specific events in everyday life.In the first study, (abstract 2.326) researchers from the University of São Paulo report that patients with TLE-HS have everyday dramatic memory deficits that may not be detected via traditional neuropsychological tests. Noting the inconsistency between neuropsychological test results, and patient complaints of memory loss in everyday life, the researchers set out to generate a more realistic picture of memory performance in these patients.
LinkedIn Email Share on Facebook Share Pinterest Share on Twitter Trial shows risk of suicide re-attempt substantially reduced after a novel psychiatric interventionA low-cost, alliance-based psychiatric intervention for emergency department patients admitted after a suicide attempt substantially reduced suicide re-attempt in a single-site randomized controlled trial published this week in PLOS Medicine.The trial, conducted by Konrad Michel and colleagues at the University Hospital of Psychiatry, Bern, Switzerland, is the first randomized study of the Attempted Suicide Short Intervention Program (ASSIP), a collaborative patient-therapist intervention for developing and implementing personal safety strategies. The researchers carried out a randomized clinical trial testing ASSIP in 120 people who had attempted suicide and been admitted to the emergency department of the Bern University General Hospital in Switzerland. The 60 ASSIP participants received three therapy sessions using narrative interviewing and video-playback in order to develop personalized preventive strategies, followed by regular reminders over 24 months.During the 24 months of follow-up, one death by suicide occurred in each group, five repeat suicide attempts were recorded in the ASSIP group, and 41 repeat suicide attempts were recorded in the control group (80% reduced risk of repeat suicide attempt with ASSIP). In addition, ASSIP participants spent 72% fewer days in the hospital during follow-up. There was no difference in patient-reported suicidal ideation or in levels of depression.Prior successes of interventions to prevent suicide have shown poor generalizability beyond the initial study site; the same challenge may apply here. However, the striking results in Bern suggest that further testing of ASSIP in large clinical trials and diverse settings is warranted.
Share LinkedIn Email Pinterest Eight years ago, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill launched a new kind of clinical trial to compare the effectiveness of online therapy – delivered through group chat sessions – to face-to-face group therapy for the treatment of bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder marked by recurrent episodes of binge eating (or eating an unusually large amount of food and feeling out of control) coupled with purging behaviors such as vomiting, laxative abuse, or excessive exercise.Now results from the study, published online by the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, show that online group therapy can be just as effective as face-to-face treatment, although the pace of recovery may be slower.“Bulimia nervosa is a devastating and sometimes deadly illness, and research has shown for years that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for bulimia is the most effective treatment, said Stephanie Zerwas, PhD, first author of the study, associate professor of psychiatry in the UNC School of Medicine, and clinical director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders. “I know that too many people have to travel for hours to find expert eating disorders treatment. Online treatment could help us bridge that gap.” In the study, 179 adults started 16 sessions of group therapy with a therapist at one of two study sites: UNC-Chapel Hill and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC) of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Assignment to either the online group or the traditional face-to-face group was completely random.Researchers compared the results of the two groups at the end of treatment, and then again 12 months later. Immediately after treatment, the face-to-face group produced better results than the online group, when it came to helping patients reach a point where they were completely free of binge eating and purging. But by the 12-month follow-up, the gap in treatment results between the two groups had narrowed dramatically; neither method of delivery (online versus face-to-face therapy) was better than the other.“We have evidence-based treatments that are effective for many people with bulimia, but many people don’t have access to specialist care,” said Cynthia M. Bulik, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Eating Disorders at UNC, founding director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders, and director of the Center for Eating Disorders Innovation at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. “This study encourages us to use technology to bring treatment to the patients who can’t come to us.” Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Share Share on Facebook LinkedIn Republicans recently announced their tax plan and are hoping to turn it into law before Thanksgiving. While details are in flux, it would likely eliminate the estate tax, lower the top marginal rate and slash corporate rates, producing, in sum, what the president has dubbed a “gigantic” tax cut.Each of these elements, if passed, would make the tax code less progressive and reduce government revenues in ways that ultimately makes it harder to pay for programs and services. Since the purpose of public policy should be to improve citizens’ lives and well-being, the obvious question to consider in evaluating this plan is whether it does that. Or put another way, will the tax plan make most Americans happier?Research on happiness economics suggests two vantage points to use in considering this question. We cannot of course generalize from a few examples, nor can we assume that taxation (and the spending taxation allows) are the only causes of happiness. To make strong claims about the nexus between taxation and well-being requires the rigorous and systematic analysis found in the peer-reviewed academic literature.In “The Political Economy of Human Happiness,” one of us (Radcliff) examined individual-level data on 21 countries over three decades and found that people are happier as tax burden increases.This held even when accounting for other factors known to affect happiness such as income, health, employment status, gender, age, race, education, religion and so on. Similarly, the national or aggregate level of happiness went up or down with the level of taxation (again, controlling for other factors).The same positive connection between tax burden and happiness was reported in a 2011 paper, while another article found that life satisfaction varies positively with the total amount of governmental “consumption” of the economy, that is the level of taxation.The price of a ‘civilized society’While details of the Republican tax plan could change drastically, it is certain to reflect core Republican values like lowering tax rates and smaller government.Republicans tend to favor a flat tax because they argue it’s fairer. And they want to reduce the tax burden overall because they think people are better off with more money in their pockets and fewer government services. Scholarly research by us and others suggest they are wrong on both counts, at least in so far as human happiness is concerned.The familiar aphorism, usually attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, notes that “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society,” a sentiment chiseled into the side of the IRS building.We believe research into the economics of happiness would take this sentiment one step farther: Taxes are the price we pay for a happy society.By Michael Krassa, Chair, Human Dimensions of Environmental Systems and Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Benjamin Radcliff, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre DameThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Pinterest Share on Twitter The first concerns how progressive a tax system is. Simply put, are societies happier when the wealthy bear a proportionately higher share of taxes? The second is the total level of taxation. That is, whether higher taxes make people more or less happy because the government takes more of their earnings and spends it on services like health care or infrastructure.Let us consider each in turn.The importance of ‘tax morale’A recent article in the peer-reviewed journal Psychological Science suggests that countries with a more progressive tax system are in fact happier than those where tax rates are flatter.In this piece, three psychologists compare the progressiveness of a nation’s tax system with various measures of happiness. They find clear and unequivocal evidence that progressive taxes “are positively associated with subjective well-being.” In other words, a country’s citizens are happier when the wealthy bear a larger share of the taxes.This conclusion holds not just when using simple correlations. It also holds under sophisticated statistical analyses that control for other national factors, such as GDP per capita and income inequality, as well as for individual factors like income, gender, age and marital status.One reason for this is that the link between income and happiness is strongest for the poor and middle class. Nobel Laureates Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman demonstrated that happiness increases with income until a certain threshold is reached at which the returns in terms of well-being progressively diminish. That means that while income lost to taxes harms the poor and middle class – who tend to spend most of what they earn – it does not trouble the affluent – whose satisfaction with life is much less affected by a marginal increase in tax burden.Another reason might be what scholars call “tax morale.” This refers to the extent to which people accept a moral obligation to pay taxes as their contribution to society. In turn, this implies a belief that a tax system is fair.Existing research clearly indicates, and common sense suggests, that tax morale is higher the more progressive a system is – that is, a “fair” system is one in which the rich pay a disproportionate share – and that people with greater tax morale are happier. So, logically, if progressive taxation increases tax morale, and tax morale increases happiness, more progressive taxes mean higher levels of happiness.This is not good news for Americans, however.The U.S. tax system is one of the least progressive in the Western world and is considerably less so than it was just a few decades ago.And this is also bad news for the Republican tax plan – if the GOP and President Donald Trump want to make Americans happier.The highly respected Tax Policy Center’s detailed analysis of the plan shows that benefits are heavily skewed toward the wealthiest. The current proposal will benefit the 1 percent handsomely, increasing their incomes by more than 8 percent. Meanwhile the working and middle classes receive minimal benefits, if any – and they may even see their taxes increase.While nothing is certain until the ink is dry, their bill most likely will result in a more regressive tax system that likely will make most Americans less happy.What taxes doBut what about connection between the total tax burden and the national level of happiness?Surely no one likes being taxed, but taxation is the mechanism by which society provides a great many things that people do like, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, not to mention good schools, good roads and safe neighborhoods.“Big government” programs benefit everyone for the obvious reason that they reduce poverty and alienation, thus lowering the social problems such as crime and suicide that these conditions produce.In turn, it seems obvious that virtually all people, regardless of social class or political ideology, are happier when there is less poverty and less insecurity. Much peer-reviewed academic research has documented just that.Whether looking across countries or across U.S. states, people – both rich and poor – tend to be happier in places where government provides a greater array of social protections and services. Hence, the closer we approach what Europeans call social democracy – and Americans call New Deal programs – the more people tend to find life satisfying.If taxpayer-funded government programs make people happy, then we should find a link between the level of tax burden and happiness. And in fact, that’s what we find by examining a wide range of countries in the Western world.For example, Denmark, generally considered the world’s happiest country, also has the highest tax burden of any of industrial democracy, with about half of all income going to the tax man in 2014. Conversely, the least happy are also the least taxed, namely South Korea and Turkey, which pay 25 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Yet, despite their low taxes, South Korea ranks just 58th in happiness, between Moldova and Romania, while Turkey ranks even lower at 69th, just below Libya. Email
New research suggests that rap music can influence how African Americans’ view Black feminism. But the type of rap music matters.The study found that Black people who listened to political rap music were significantly more accepting of Black feminist attitudes than those who listened to non-political rap music.“All rap music is not the same and it impacts individuals differently. Additionally, this article also demonstrates that rap music as a source of infotainment, impacts attitudes,” the researchers from Georgia State University and Purdue University wrote in their study, which was published in New Political Science. Share on Twitter LinkedIn The researchers defined political rap “as music that provides political information by detailing political strategies, injustices, and grievances, and most importantly containing a political reference, such as directly or implicitly referencing a political leader, office/institution, activity, or opposition.”Non-political rap, on the other hand, referred to mainstream rap music that did not contain any explicit political messages.In the study, 175 African-American participants were randomly assigned to listen to political rap songs, non-political rap songs, rhythm and blues, or pop music — or to read an article about technological advances. Immediately afterward, the participants completed a survey designed to measure Black feminist attitudes.The political rap songs used in the experiment were “Georgia…Bush” by Lil Wayne, “Police State” by Dead Prez, and “Us” by Ice Cube. The non-political rap songs were “Walk it Out” by DJ Unk, “In Da Club” by 50 Cent, and “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg.The researchers found that those exposed to the non-political rap music were the least likely to agree with statements such as “Black women have suffered from both sexism within the Black movement and racism within the women’s movement” and “Black women should share equally in the political leadership of the Black community.” This negative association was stronger among men than women.Participants who listened to rhythm and blues were the most supportive of Black feminist attitudes, while those who listened to political rap followed closely behind.“Rap music has been characterized as a misogynistic musical genre, yet this study demonstrates that not all subgenres of rap music are consistently harmful to Black feminist ideology and attitudes toward women,” the authors of the study wrote.“Rather than evaluating rap music as a homogenous genre, this study presented how political and non-political rap leads to the acceptance of differing views of Black women,” they wrote.The study, “Do the Ladies Run This Mutha? The Relationship between Political Rap and Black Feminist Attitudes“, was authored by Lakeyta M. Bonnette-Bailey and Nadia E. Brown. Share on Facebook Email Share Pinterest
Oct 21, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Laboratory experts from Australia and Singapore have identified changes in the 2009 H1N1 flu virus that they say don’t seem to make the vaccine less effective but bear watching.Researchers first identified the genetic variants in April 2010 in Singapore, where they became more common, spreading to New Zealand and Australia during their winter flu seasons.The group described its findings in today’s issue of Eurosurveillance. Other experts contacted by CIDRAP News said the findings are not surprising.Over the past several months, global health officials have said the circulating 2009 H1N1 strains are a good match with the ones included in the latest seasonal flu vaccines for both hemispheres. The authors wrote that earlier genetic variants, D222G and E391K, have not predominated in a country or region like the new variations have.They found that 2009 H1N1 viruses isolated this year from Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia showed the E391K change in the hemagglutinin protein, a further change in the HA (N142D), along with changes in the neuraminidase (NA) protein, M15I and N189S. Viruses with the changes became predominant in Singapore by the middle of 2010 and were found in New Zealand in July and August.So far viruses with the HA changes have been detected only sporadically in other areas, such as Guam. Viruses with both the HA and NA changes have so far not been reported in any Northern Hemisphere countries.In Australia and Singapore, the variant 2009 H1N1 viruses were associated with several vaccine breakthroughs (infections that occur in spite of vaccination) in teens and adults who received the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, as well as in a number of fatal cases.However, the researchers said that without complete patient records they can’t compare the breakthrough frequency of the variant and nonvariant strains. Also, a comprehensive review of patient record would reveal possible confounding factors, such as age and immune status.When the investigators used hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assays to assess antigenic variation with the variant virus, they found no differences between it and reference and vaccine viruses. When they tested the variant against a small human serum panel, they found some reduction in HI titers with postvaccination sera, but, when considering both HI analyses, they said the findings suggest no major antigenic differences with the variant viruses in this stage of their evolution.”It remains to be seen whether this variant will continue to predominate for the rest of the influenza season in Oceania and in other parts of the southern hemisphere and then spread to the northern hemisphere or merely die out,” the group wrote.Though the findings don’t appear to represent a significant antigenic change, they might signal the start of a drift in the 2009 H1N1 virus that may require a vaccine update sooner than expected, they concluded.Vincent Racaniello, PhD, a virologist at Columbia University who writes Virology Blog, told CIDRAP News that the findings aren’t surprising: The virus is drifting genetically, but the amino acid changes haven’t yet affected the antigenic structure of the virus.He said the findings don’t signal the start of antigenic drift, and there are no specific properties associated with the changes the researchers observed.The data included in the study reflect a small fraction of the thousands of virus specimens World Health Organization (WHO) laboratories collect and study as they assess antigenic drift and whether a drifted strain is likely to spread in populations, Racaniello said.Nancy Cox, MD, director of the Influenza Division at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CIDRAP News that the data in the study are not new to the CDC. She said they came out of WHO collaborating centers and were reviewed over the summer and at the end of September when WHO experts made their recommendations for the Southern Hemisphere’s 2011 flu season.She added that the CDC constantly monitors circulating flu viruses for both genetic and antigenic changes.See also:Oct 21 Eurosurveillance report