Wednesday, October 10, 2007

H5N1 Mutates To Become Easier To Spread Human-To-Human

Some more on the new research that claims to have identified a mutation of the H5N1 avian flu virus, which allows it to grow and survive in the upper respiratory tracts of humans. Basically, this is bad news if the virus mutates further and reaches pandemic strength.

The new mutation discovery appears to suggest that the virus could be passed on the breath from human to human, and through saliva droplets from sneezes and coughs.

The Japanese and Vietnamese scientists who identified the new mutation said the potential for the H5N1 virus to effectively gain the ability to transmit human-to-human "is now evident."

The scientists fear the virus is only one mutation away from being able to cause a pandemic :
The group of nine scientific researchers, led by professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Tokyo, also found that the virus can spread by coughing and sneezing, signaling a potential for human-to-human transmission.

"We believe another mutation may be necessary (for the virus) to cause a pandemic," Kawaoka said. "As more humans are infected, the greater the chance that the mutation will evolve."

The researchers compared two H5N1-type viruses extracted from the throat and lung of a patient in Vietnam in 2004. They infected a mouse with the virus, and found it tended to grow in the upper respiratory tract, including the throat and nose, where flu viruses usually enter.

Researchers also found that the temperature in these parts is about 33, lower than the average temperature of mammals, which is 37. This indicates that this particular mutation allows H5N1 to live in the human upper respiratory tracts that have cooler temperatures. Normally, bird flu does not grow well in the throat or nasal passages of humans.

Last year, Kawaoka and other scientists found another mutation, which allows the virus to infect people more easily, raising the expectation that these findings could help scientists to predict the emergence of new strains.

The world is not even close to being ready to deal with what may result from further mutations.


Anonymous said...

I like your novel Darryl. I'm a CNA (not a doctor) and I have been following the bird flu for about two years now. I use "newsnow" as my feed for the bird flu, if an article goes on the internet I have it in five minutes when the feed refreshes. Try googling "newsnow bird flu" and set it as one of your favorites. I'm on a chatline called "Avian Flu Talk" and there are a lot of us and some healthcare professionals to answer questions.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone determined how long it takes for the virus to mutate?

Karl Renner said...

They can mutate pretty fast I would presume. It's all still a bit of a mystery what's going on inside the influenza virus isn't it?

I don't get easily scared, and excuse my language, but bird flu scares the fuck out of me.

And it scares me even more than bird flu could be turned into a bioweapon.

Anonymous said...

Have heard that medical professionals, in numerous fields, still don't understand the entire virus issue and probably never will.

Fear is a good thing when it comes to the bird flu virus. Fear so you can protect yourself that is. Because no one else will do it for you.
The last figure I saw for people really interested in the bird flu was 2%. So that leaves us with 98% of the population that will be blind-sided over their own ignorance.

This entire H5N1 and the course it's taking, in my mind anyway, is inevitable, and now predictable in an odd sort of way.

AJS said...

It seems that the mutation/combination of avian/human flu is more "when" rather than "if".
It also seems that Tamiflu and Interferon may not be the panacea we need.
So, what about considering an alternative ant-viral discussed on my blog at