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Monday, October 24, 2005 

How many mutations?

There are 2 big questions regarding influenza and species jumps. 1) What changes does the virus need to adapt to a new species, and 2) what changes does the virus need to be easily transmitted within that species? A paper in press by Gambaryan et al. (found in the journal Virology, here) sheds some light onto the first question, at least regarding H5N1. And the answer is: not many changes are necessary at all--as little as one amino acid change can alter the binding specificity.

The fact that a single amino acid substitution in the receptor binding area of the H5 HA of two human isolates, A/Hong Kong/212/2003 and A/Hong Kong/213/2003, resulted in marked affinity to a receptor optimal for typical human viruses underscores the necessity and significance of further comprehensive surveillance for the affinity of H5N1 viruses to different receptors for better understanding of their pandemic potential.
As always, EffectMeasure is one step ahead of me, and has a more thorough discussion of the results here.


About me

  • I'm Tara C. Smith
  • From Iowa, United States
  • I'm a mom and a scientist, your basic stressed-out, wanna-have-it-all-and-do-it-all Gen Xer. Recently transplanted from Ohio to Iowa, I've spent most of my life in the midwest (with 4 years of college spent out east in "soda" territory). My main interest, and the subject of my research, is infectious disease: how does the microbe cause illness? What makes one strain nasty, and another "avirulent?" Are the latter really not causing any disease, or could some of those be possible for the development of chronic disease years down the road? Additionally, I've spent a lot of time discussing the value of teaching evolution, and educating others about "intelligent design" and other forms of creationism. My interest in history of science and medicine is also useful as a way to tie all of the above interests together. [Disclaimer: the views here are solely my own, and do not represent my employer, my spouse, that guy who's always sitting by the fountain when I come into work, or anyone else with whom I may be remotely affiliated.]
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