Flu Virus Can Mutate Rapidly

The flu virus has always been known for its ability to mutate but scientists have discovered that the flu virus can mutate even more rapidly than originally thought -- which raises new concerns about the emerging bird flu problem in Southeast asia. The BBC reports on the new discovery:
Scientists previously believed that gene swapping progressed gradually from season to season.

The National Institutes of Health team found instead, influenza A exchanged several genes at once, causing sudden and major changes to the virus.

The findings in PLOS Biology suggest strains could vary widely each season, making it potentially harder to treat.
Scientists with the World Health Organization and local disease experts in various countries have been working together to try and prevent a deadly bird virus from spreading to humans where it could mutate and then spread rapidly from human to human. Scientists are concerned that bird flu could killed tens of millions of people if the flu gains the ability to spread quickly among human hosts.

Posted on July 26, 2005

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