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News

Predicting the pandemic - staying one step ahead of influenza

Society For General Microbiology : 09 January, 2002  (Company News)
Studies to identify which influenza virus strains are present in pigs and chickens could help scientists to predict the next human pandemic strain and develop new, more effective, vaccines medical experts heard during a joint meeting of the European Societies of Clinical and Veterinary Virology and the Society for General Microbiology at the Royal College of Physicians, London.
Studies to identify which influenza virus strains are present in pigs and chickens could help scientists to predict the next human pandemic strain and develop new, more effective, vaccines medical experts heard during a joint meeting of the European Societies of Clinical and Veterinary Virology and the Society for General Microbiology at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

'We know that new influenza strains develop in animals and are spread to humans but until recently it has been difficult to predict which of these strains will cause a pandemic. We're now looking at a number of genetic factors that are involved in transmission of influenza virus from animal to human hosts,' says Dr Ian Brown, Head of Influenza Research at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Weybridge.

Dr Brown explained, 'By studying variations in the viral surface proteins NA and HA we've been able to show that different combinations of these proteins arise in ducks and other aquatic birds but these new viruses can't cause flu in humans until they have adapted inside pigs or chickens. Close monitoring of these intermediate animals could lead to improved approaches for disease control.'

Dr Brown concluded, 'By preparing vaccines to possible pandemic strains found in pigs and chickens ahead of viral transmission to humans, and by improving systems for large scale vaccine delivery, we should be able to minimise the impact of the next human pandemic.'
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