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La gripe AH1N1, un nuevo virus híbrido de alta patogenicidad.

El actual brote de gripe AH1N1 parece ser un virus "híbrido" que tiene componentes porcino, humano y aviar, por lo que puede reunir la alta patogenicidad del aviar y la facilidad del humano para transmitirse de persona a persona.

Además, se trata de un virus nuevo, por lo que no se sabe cómo puede comportarse, según los científicos. La gripe AH1N1 es una enfermedad respiratoria que afecta a los cerdos, causada por el virus de la gripe tipo A, que provoca con frecuencia brotes de gripe entre estos animales, fundamentalmente en otoño e invierno.

Su morbilidad suele ser alta y su mortalidad baja (1-4%).

Según explica la Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS) en su página web, los virus de la gripe AH1N1 (o influenza AH1N1) más comunes son del subtipo H1N1, aunque también hay otros subtipos como son H1N2, H3N1, H3N2.

Por lo general, los virus de la gripe AH1N1 no infectan a los humanos, aunque ocasionalmente se ha informado de brotes en personas en contacto directo con cerdos. Hay también algunos casos documentados de transmisión entre personas. Por ejemplo, en 1988, un brote de gripe AH1N1 en cerdos en Wisconsin (Nueva Jersey, Estados Unidos) causó múltiples infecciones en seres humanos y se pudo comprobar la transmisión del virus de un paciente a personal de atención médica.

Sin embargo, al igual que todos los virus de la gripe, los virus de la influenza AH1N1 cambian de manera constante. Se da la circunstancia, además, de que los cerdos pueden infectarse no sólo por los virus de influenza AH1N1, sino también por los de la influenza aviar y humana, lo que hace posible que esos virus puedan coincidir e intercambiar genes, originando nuevos virus.

Los síntomas de la gripe AH1N1 en las personas son similares a los de la gripe común -fiebre alta, tos, dolor de cabeza, músculos y articulaciones, irritación de ojos y flujo nasal, además de vómitos y diarrea-, aunque la asociación con una neumonía puede causar la muerte. El período de incubación estimado es de diez días, y para su diagnóstico se debe recoger una muestra obtenida del aparato respiratorio entre los primeros 4 a 5 días de infección.

El contagio de una persona a otra se produce de igual forma que la gripe estacional, principalmente cuando una de ellas tose o estornuda. La OMS descarta, sin embargo, que pueda contraerse por comer carne de cerdo o sus derivados, e insiste en que no hay riesgo si dichos alimentos han sido manipulados y cocinados de manera adecuada.

De hecho, según indica la OMS, si se cocina la carne de cerdo a una temperatura interna de aproximadamente 71° C, se eliminan no sólo los virus de la gripe AH1N1, sino también otras bacterias y virus.

Existen vacunas que se administran a los cerdos para la prevención de la gripe AH1N1, pero no hay una vacuna para proteger a las personas contra dicha enfermedad, ni tampoco se sabe aún si la vacunación con las cepas actuales de la gripe ofrece alguna clase de protección.

Para prevenir y tratar la enfermedad se dispone de cuatro antivirales: amantadina, rimantadina, oseltamivir y zanamivir, aunque sólo dos de ellos (oseltamivir y zanamivir) parecen haber tenido éxito con la nueva cepa del virus. La OMS tiene almacenadas 5 millones de dosis de Tamiflú (oseltamivir), el medicamento empleado contra la gripe aviar y al que también es sensible la gripe AH1N1.

Según la OMS es posible que muchas personas, especialmente aquellas que no tienen contacto regular con cerdos, no tengan inmunidad que los proteja contra la infección por virus de influenza de origen porcino, de forma que si un virus de origen porcino consigue establecer una transmisión eficiente de persona a persona, podría causar una pandemia (epidemia mundial).

Por el momento, la OMS no ha recomendado que se restrinjan los viajes a las zonas afectadas.

Fuente: IUTEPI

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