Ryan Pyle for The New York Times

Liu Minghong, a farmer in Sichuan Province, said he lost 70 pigs to a virulent disease, leaving him with just a few.


The New York Times

Published: August 16, 2007

CHENGDU, China, Aug. 9 — A highly infectious swine virus is sweeping China’s pig population, driving up pork prices and creating fears of a global pandemic among domesticated pigs.

Animal virus experts say Chinese authorities are playing down the gravity and spread of the disease.

So far, the mysterious virus — believed to cause an unusually deadly form of an infection known as blue-ear pig disease — has spread to 25 of this country’s 33 provinces and regions, prompting a pork shortage and the strongest inflation in China in a decade.

More than that, China’s past lack of transparency — particularly over what became the SARS epidemic — has created global concern.

“They haven’t really explained what this virus is,” says Federico A. Zuckermann, a professor of immunology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. “This is like SARS. They haven’t sent samples to any international body. This is really irresponsible of China. This thing could get out and affect everyone.”

There are no clear indications that blue-ear disease — if that is what this disease is — poses a threat to human health.

In Gu Yi, a village in Sichuan Province, a veterinarian’s banner claims he can cure blue-ear disease, but the virus still spreads.

MOLNDAL, Sweden, Aug. 7 (UPI) — A Swedish-led team of scientists is developing a “tool kit” for personalized medicine based on a person’s genetic characteristics.

Fredrik Nyberg, Gyorgy Marko-Varga, Atsushi Ogiwara and colleagues at AstraZeneca’s research and development center in Molndal, Sweden, note cancer therapy already is moving toward individualized treatments selected according to tumor cell type and patients’ predicted responses to different kinds of anti-cancer drugs.

The researchers have developed a system of state-of-the-art proteomic profiling, in which blood tests are used to analyze single proteins and multiple “fingerprint” protein patterns, including proteins that can serve as biomarkers for disease.

The aim is to create a “tool kit” that physicians could use in everyday medicine, including rapid methods for identifying proteins in the blood and processing the resulting data.

The project is presented in the current issue of the Journal of Proteome Research.