posted on Apr, 27 2009 @ 12:59 PM
reply to post by noroman
Look, viruses don't "merge." They may exchange genetics in hosts conducive to such a crossover, but it would appear that the current H1N1 strain
(AKA Swine Flu) has already done so with respect to the H5N1 strain (AKA Avian Flu) since it already has genetic markers associated with that strain.
In other words, the current strain does not require further genetic exchange with the bird flu to increase its human transmissibilty.
A new hybridization between H1N1 and H5N1 could happen, but we wouldn't realize it until a new outbreak occurred, likely with different symptomology
and pathology. In other words, to the extent that these two strains could form a "supervirus," it would happen sometime in the future, not now.
This is because it would take some time for the current H1N1 strain to interact with another H5N1 strain, exchange genetics, create a new hybrid
strain, and then propagate that strain through infectious outbreak. One hopes that general awareness and containment efforts will help mitigate such
a possibility (though obviously I have my doubts, particularly if this thing seems to go away).
What we do need to be worried about, however, is the current strain's potential for mutation, which would not require hybridization with another
strain, but which nevertheless could be devastating.
At the same time, it's worth noting that genetic mutations are random in nature. That means that probabilistically, any given mutation has at least
as much of a chance of decreasing human virulence and lethality as it does increasing those characteristics.
Cold comfort, I agree. After all, viruses are prolific replicators, and every generation of new virus that is created has the chance to mutate, which
means that the question of when a super-lethal mutation crops up is really just a numbers game.