The genome sequences of over 200 influenza A viruses reveal a much more diverse array of influenza strains—and greater potential for segment exchange between these strains—than was previously realized, researchers report in this week's Nature.

While it's long been known that the RNA-based influenza virus survives by rapidly evolving, the paper provides new insights into the degree of its variability and the mechanisms of its success, helping scientists design better ways of protecting against influenza, said Robert Belshe at the St. Louis University Center for Vaccine Development, who did not participate in the studies.

This report, which assessed genetic variations in the strains over a five year period, is one of a trio of papers about the flu virus published this week. The other two recreate and research the particularly virulent strain responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, which killed all laboratory mice within 6 days. The findings...

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