An influential study has identified the key mutation of the H5N1 influenza virus, needed for it’s efficient replication in the upper respiratory tracts of mice as a mammalian model.
A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison report the identification of a key trigger for the virus to facilitate its easy transmission from person to person.
Mutation of PB2 amino acid 627 could be the trigger for the Flu Pandemic.
As in the case of most of the flu and other viruses, H5N1 originated in China.
The first outbreak in humans caused by the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A virus was reported in Hong Kong in 1997, and resulted in the deaths of six of 18 infected people.
This event demonstrated for the first time the direct transmission of a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus from birds to humans with a fatal outcome.
At the end of the year 2003, this virus began to spread widely in poultry in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand and has since spread to over 60 countries around the world.
This has raised serious worldwide concern about their pandemic potential, in the minds of most people who use logic in their thinking.
Of course, not all use logic in their thinking and there are still a few people, who think that the H5N1 is an illusion at best and some kind of a global conspiracy at worst.
The name of “What-Bird-Flu-Fumento” comes to mind here.
But I digress.
Even though efficient human-to-human transmission of this virus has not yet occurred, (other than a few “family clusters” of infection reported over the years) the potential of these viruses to acquire the ability is evident to thinking minds.
However, it was discovered that certain H5N1 viruses isolated from humans that possess human receptor specificity, have still failed to spread efficiently among humans.
Therefore it was thought that an additional amino acid substitutions in viral proteins, other than the receptor-binding the haemmaglutinin HA protein, (which is considered to be a main factor affecting efficient transmission of H5N1 viruses) must be necessary for efficient growth and person-to-person transmission of avian H5N1 influenza virus.,
Now a study has confirmed the above and has identfied defined the contribution of a single Amino acid to the efficient replication of H5N1 influenza viruses in the upper respiratory tracts of mice as a mammalian model.
Writing in the journal Public Library of Science Pathogens, a team of researchers led by virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine has identified a single mutation of the Amino Acid at position 627 of the PB2 , which could greatly enhance the virus’ ability to infect the cells of the upper respiratory system in mammals.
Because efficient viral growth in the upper respiratory tract of humans can facilitate virus excretion by coughing and sneezing, a mutation of PB2 amino acid 627, which contributes to efficient growth at this site in a mammal, may be prerequisite for efficient human-to-human transmission.
As a result of the mutation of the PB2 amino acid 627 the virus could adapt to the upper respiratory system, and be capable of spreading widely, potentially setting the stage for the dreaded global flu pandemic.
Here is the original Research Article, “Growth of H5N1 Influenza A Viruses in the Upper Respiratory Tracts of Mice” which is available under Open Access:
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