Where the swine flu came from, genetically

piglets by Xirzon

SCIENCE: Origins of the New H1N1 Flu Virus:
[Via AAAS News – RSS Feed]

Science Study Helps to Unravel the Origins of the New H1N1 Flu Virus

The genetic origins of the new A(H1N1) influenza virus have been circulating in pigs for years, according to a sequencing effort released today by Science.

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Technology allows us to get large amounts of sequencing data very rapidly (and in a nice move, Science made the article Open Access for us all to read). Not only does this allow us to gain an understanding of the evolution of diseases, such as swine flu, but also gain some understanding of the biological activities of some of its proteins.

We can also model where various amino acid changes fall on these proteins, helping identify possible sites to worry about. Recently a group in Singapore has shown how amino acid changes in an enzyme of the swine flu compares with other virulent strains. Some of the things they found:

a. neuraminidase structure of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus has undergone extensive surface mutations compared to closely related strains such as the H5N1 avian flu virus or other H1N1 strains including the 1918 Spanish flu;
b. neuraminidase of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus strain is more similar to the H5N1 avian flu than to the historic 1918 H1N1 strain (Spanish flu);
c. current mutations of the virus have rendered previous flu vaccinations directed against neuraminidase less effective; and
d. commercial drugs, namely Tamiflu® and Relenza®, are still effective in treating the current H1N1 virus.


The model is
available for anyone to examine and compare with other forms of the enzyme.

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