Article: Flu virulence linked to species jump

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Robert Karl Sto

Flu virulence linked to species jump Structural information on the 1918 influenza virus could help
control a future pandemic | By Cathy Holding

The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed more people than died in the First World War-at least 20 million-
but why this strain of the disease was so virulent has remained a mystery. Analysis of the crystal
structure of viral hemagglutinin (HA)-a major surface antigen that mediates binding to the host cell-
shows the 1918 virus antigen is related to the avian antigen, suggesting that the virulence resulted
from a recent chicken/human cross-species jump.

Alan Hay, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research
on Influenza at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and who was not involved in the
studies, told The Scientist, "All this information helps us to understand what sort of changes may
facilitate human infection by an avian virus. The accumulated data that we have on the structural
detail helps us to look for changes which might have an impact on the ability of these viruses to
spread within the [human] population

Read the rest at The

Comment: This is a more detailed article on the evolution of viruses than the previous one I posted
- goes into the science more.

Say, where did the chickens get the virus from? I mean, if the virus can jump from chickens to
humans, and humans have an annual world wide strain of the disease, isn't it reasonable to assume
that at some time the chickens will catch the virus from humans, making the subsequent strain
preadapted to humans and so more virulent?

Posted by Robert Karl Stonjek.