The term Recombinant DNA is normally used for DNA that has been created artificially.
DNA from two or more sources is incorporated into a single recombinant molecule via the combination or insertion of one or more DNA strands, thereby combining DNA sequences which would not normally occur together.
However, recombination is also an important mechanism in virus evolution, allowing viruses to evolve more quickly by providing immediate direct access to many more areas of a sequence space than are accessible by mutation alone.
The exchange of genetic material between different virus species is called inter-species recombination.
This has the potential to generate, within a single genome replication cycle, an almost unimaginable number of genetically distinct virus strains, including many that might cause deadly new human, animal, or plant diseases.
As an example, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is formed by a combination of mammalian and avian viruses, according to a new study from the University of Toronto.
The study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Virology, sheds light on the SARS coronavirus, a deadly form of pneumonia caused by the same viral family as the common cold.
I have been interested in this “evolutionary shortcut” for a while now.
It was with a real sense of dread therefore that I read the following article from Recombinomics laying out the chilling possibility of a mutated combination of H5N1 with Ebola.
Even Hollywood could not produce any thing worse than that!
Here is the article from Recombinomics:
The conventional wisdom was that Ebola is containable because it kills its victims faster than it can find new ones.
However, conditions on the ground are now proving otherwise.
While 61 cases have been identified, Zaramba says the health ministry is having difficulty detecting more cases or identifying people with whom patients had contact.
And as of the weekend, the disease had spread to three new zones in Bundibugyo district.
Local officials speaking on the condition of anonymity say that the death toll is almost twice that reported.
The above comments describe the worsening situation in Uganda.
The current strain was difficult to identify, and is likely a recombinant. Recombination has been linked to the emergence of new Ebola strains, and some of these strains share a region of identity with H5 influenza.
Both influenza and filoviruses are negative sense RNA viruses and influenza is transported and transmitted by migratory birds that fly into Africa.
The new species may also have different transmission modes.
The symptoms of the cases are closer to those associated with H5N1 than those associated with Ebola.
The CDC has partial Ebola sequence data, but the relationship between those sequences and prior Ebola sequences remain unclear.
Release of the partial sequences would be useful. The Ebola / H5 identity is in the envelope gene, and the region has differences in strains of Ebola as well as high and low path H5.
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