Two groups of researchers have just completed a study on the transmission of H5N1. Their results, which suggest that a mutation into a virus that is
easily transferable from human to human would be much more difficult that recently supposed, would therefore suggest that a pandemic may not
imminent. Basically, normal human flue virii like to attach themselves in the upper respiratory tract, causing coughing and sneezing. H5N1, on the
other hand, likes to attach itself to cells in the alveoli, much deeper in the lungs. Deep in the lungs, the virus is unlikely to cause the coughing
and sneezing that are the main ways normal human flu spreads.
Two groups of researchers, in Japan and in Holland, have discovered why the avian flu virus is transmitted rarely if ever from one person to
The reason is simply that the cells bearing the type of receptor the avian virus is known to favor turn out to be clustered in the deepest branches of
the human respiratory tract. The viruses thus cannot be spread by coughs and sneezes, as are human flu viruses which infect cells in the upper
The avian flu virus would need to accumulate many favorable mutations in its genetic material before it could become a pandemic strain, said Yoshihiro
Kawaoka, a virologist at the both the University of Tokyo and the University of Wisconsin. According to a press statement he approved, "The finding
suggests that scientists and public health agencies worldwide may have more time to prepare for an eventual pandemic."
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
As noted in the article, H5N1 would need to mutate much more than suggested recently before it becomes a pandemic strain. Hopefully these researchers
are correct, and hopefully this buys some time for vaccine production. Were the world able to create a vaccine in time, I think we would all breathe a
sigh of relief (no pun intended).
We need to be careful, though, not to become complacent, as one of the supporting articles notes (the last one). We're not safe yet.
Related News Links:
Another NYT Article
We’re Not Safe Yet
[edit on 24-3-2006 by Hamburglar]