Scientists waiting for H1N1 virus to mutate

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Washington, Oct 9 (ANI): Infectious disease experts are eagerly awaiting the H1N1 virus to undergo a mutation.

John Tudor, Ph.D., a microbiologist at Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia said: "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization are constantly monitoring the virus as it spreads.... but there is no way to predict where, when or if mutation will occur."

He hopes the either the virus does not mutate at all or undergoes a less virulent mutation.

Explaining how the virus can mutate, Tudor said: "The mutation, or antigenic shift, would occur in a cell when it is infected with two different strains of the H1N1 virus," says Tudor. "When this happens, a reassortment of genetic information may end up in a single virus particle, making a new strain, which may be more or less virulent than the original."

Tudor points out that naming the influenza H1N1 as swine flu may not be totally correct because: "Analysis of the genome indicates it contains genetic fragments from Asian and European pigs as well as birds and humans of unknown source. Since the origin of the genetic elements came from four sources, it's called a quadruple reassortment virus."

Tudor also warned that the virus could become immune to Tamiflu.

He said: "Staff at a camp in North Carolina gave campers prophylactic doses, and later, when some became ill, Tamiflu didn't help. Like any other medication, we need to use it appropriately for it to be effective. The CDC recommends against giving flu drugs to healthy people in order to prevent illness."

He added: "Studies have concluded both seasonal flu virus and variants like the current H1N1 are probably descended from the 1918 influenza known as Spanish flu."

Although, the 1918 flu took a toll of millions, Tudor believes the recent descendants of the virus cause less severe flu.

"This is apparently the case for the present pandemic," her said. (ANI)

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