Friday, 26 April 2013

#WW3 Lab-Altered H5N1 Flu More Infectious to Humans than Birds

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"Friday, April 26, 2013

** BREAKING ** Lab-Altered H5N1 Flu More Infectious to Humans than Birds

A staff member works on a blood sample of a chicken at the Veterinary Research Bureau.
A new study suggests a laboratory-mutated H5N1 avian influenza virus could pose a greater risk to humans than to birds, adding to concerns about the new avian flu strain that has emerged recently in China.

Over a year ago, Japanese researchers created a genetically-altered version of the H5N1 avian influenza virus to explore the risk of human-to-human transmission. They reported in the journal Nature in early 2012 that the mutated pathogen could be transmitted among mammals through the air in aerosol droplets -- for example, from sneezing. They conducted their experiments with ferrets, small domesticated mammals that are a good model for human disease transmission.

The experiment showed that the viral strain has the potential to cause a global human pandemic, even without contact with infected poultry or even person-to-person contact. That finding sparked international security concerns that the pathogen could be used as a biological weapon.

So far, 600 cases of H5N1 in humans have been reported to the World Health Organization. The virus causes severe pneumonia and respiratory failure. The illness has killed 60 percent of those who have contracted it.

Following up on the Japanese research, an international team studied just how infectious the virus would be to humans, should mutated copies ever jump the species barrier.

John Skehel is a virologist with the National Institute for Medical Research in London. Writing in the journal Nature, Skehel and co-researchers describe how effectively amino acids from the mutant bird-flu strain are able to bind, or latch onto human cell surface proteins or receptors, as compared with bird or avian cells.

“And we find that it will bind to human receptors about 200 times better than it binds to avian receptors,” Skehel explained.


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