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Influenza summers far from home

Flu strains migrate widely during summer off-season and evolve by swapping genes with other far-off strains

Matt Kaplan
Influenza, long thought to lie dormant in its epidemic territory during its summer off-season, in fact migrates far and wide during that time, according to a study published last week in PLOS Pathogens. The results suggest that strains use their annual migration to swap genetic material with other strains from around the world."The findings here show what most of us have long believed - the interchange between the influenza populations in the northern and southern hemispheres is important to viral evolution," James Cherry of the University of California, Los Angeles, who did not participate in the work, told The Scientist. Influenza evolves seasonally, flummoxing the human immune system and leaving people vulnerable to reinfection year after year. Previous research on strains from New York revealed that the virus does not generate mutations in genes recognized by the immune system during winter epidemic periods. This led researchers to question...

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