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Bird flu mutation raises threat to humans
The first sign that the avian flu virus H5N1 may be mutating into a form more infectious to humans has been reported by scientists. Researchers from the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in Mill Hill, north London, have analysed viruses from two children who died of bird flu in eastern Turkey.
In one case, the analysis revealed mutations in the virus that made it more prone to infect humans. In a joint statement, Sir John Skehel, director of the institute, run by the Medical research Council, and the World Health Organisation, said a mutation had been traced in viruses isolated in Hong Kong in 2003 and in Vietnam last year.
"Research has indicated the Hong Kong 2003 viruses preferred to bind to human cell receptors more than to avian receptors, and it is expected that the Turkish virus will also have this characteristic."