Podcast Examines Link Between Arsenic Exposure and Flu Susceptibility

Newswise — In the latest installment of The Researcher's Perspective, the new podcast series by Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), Dr. Josh Hamilton discusses the potential implications of his recent mouse study on arsenic exposure and immune response to influenza A/H1N1. The podcast is available at www.ehponline.org.

Hamilton and his colleagues found that mice exposed to 100 parts per billion (ppb) arsenic in drinking water had a significantly compromised innate immune response to infection with a mouse-adapted subtype of H1N1 influenza. When this first line of immune defense was suppressed by arsenic, mice infected with H1N1 became severely ill. In comparison, flu symptoms in mice that were not exposed to arsenic were relatively mild, even though the animals were infected with the same H1N1 strain.

In the new podcast Hamilton explains, "With so many people potentially exposed to arsenic in drinking water, the implications for increased mortality from influenza viral infections and bacterial infections could be profound." Contamination of drinking water by natural geological sources of arsenic is the primary route of exposure to this element. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide, including up to 25 million Americans, drink well water containing levels of arsenic above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit of 10 ppb.

"I would urge anyone who's on a private well supply to have their water tested," Hamilton said. "People may not realize that only public water supplies are regulated by the state and federal government, and that private, unregulated wells are untested [on a routine basis] unless the homeowner chooses to do that."

The study by Hamilton and colleagues, available online at www.ehponline.org, will appear in the September 2009 issue of EHP.

The Researcher's Perspective provides a behind-the-scenes look at what researchers are studying and the human health implications of their research. New podcasts are posted at www.ehponline.org and on iTunes. Updates on new podcasts are available through EHP's RSS and Twitter feeds. Other podcasts currently available include "Do PCBs Contribute to Childhood Leukemia?" with Dr. Mary H. Ward, "Public Health for the 21st Century" with Dr. Kenneth Olden and "Long-Term Effects of Bisphenol A Exposure" with Retha Newbold.

EHP is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EHP is an Open Access journal. More information is available online at www.ehponline.org.

Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing handles marketing and public relations for the publication and is responsible for creation and distribution of this press release.

Editor's Note: Working media and other interested parties can register to receive press releases via e-mail by visiting www.ehponline.org/press, calling 919-653-2592 or e-mailing ehpmedia@brogan.com.

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