Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Test May Monitor Bird Flu Virus Mutation

A new test may help provide a kind of early warning system for new and dangerous mutations in the avian flu virus, US researchers say. The test could alert scientists to when the virus starts to change into a form that easily infects people, the researchers report in the Journal of Molecular Biology. The test, called a glycan array, shows it would take very little change for the H5N1 avian influenza virus to cause a human pandemic, said Ian Wilson of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

The H5N1 virus still primarily infects birds and only rarely passes to people. Experts fear this could change, and that a form easily transmitted from person to person could cause a pandemic, a global epidemic, that would kill millions. Wilson's team says the new test can spot this happening. They used their glycan array to survey samples of the proteins that make up the coats of strains of human and avian viruses, including from the 1918 influenza pandemic. The Scripps Institute test can tell the difference between a bird virus that prefers bird sialic acids and a virus that prefers the human version, the researchers said. Read More ....

Source: The Age
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