Giving Compass’ Take:
• In this Fred Hutch story, Sabrina Richards discusses recent research into a key influenza protein that allows humans to catch bird flu.
• What are the next steps for researchers looking to use this information? How can philanthropists enable researchers to make use of this progress?
• To learn more about why we still don’t have effective tools for fighting the flu, click here.
Deadly flu pandemics can arise when influenza viruses circulating in animals acquire the ability to jump to humans. In work published [recently] in the open-access journal eLife, scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center comprehensively mapped the alterations in a key influenza protein that allow bird flu to grow better in people.
The map could help scientists better understand which changes enable flu to jump species and may presage a new pandemic, said flu researcher Dr. Shirleen Soh, a postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of Hutch computational biologist Dr. Jesse Bloom. This understanding, in turn, would be a step toward heading off pandemics by pinpointing which viruses should be targeted with a vaccine.
Though scientists can collect and sequence viruses circulating in the world, “we have no idea how that information translates into how well a particular virus is going to do in a human host,” Soh said. Comprehensive maps of mutations that enable bird flu to grow well in human cells “are one way to build a better model for understanding which viruses might do well [in people] or not.”
Read the full article about flu route mapping by Sabrina Richards at Fred Hutchinson News Service
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