The finding could allow scientists to stay one step ahead of an H5N1 flu pandemic by screening for the specific mutations that would enable it to spread.
A new study investigating the difference between the 1918 pandemic flu virus – which killed at least 50 million people – and a virus which kills but does not spread turned out to be two small mutations on the virus’s surface. Just two amino acids – the building blocks of protein – need to change on the virus’s surface in order to allow it to spread easily between people, the researchers found.
The discovery comes as H5N1 continues to kill. Indonesia this week declared a state of emergency, as it counted its 63rd death. Sub-Saharan Africa confirmed its first death, a 22 year old woman in Lagos, Nigeria.
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