Genetic analysis of bird flu

Latest avian flu virus to cause human deaths doesn't contain human flu sequences but could still be dangerous.

Tabitha Powledge(tam@nasw.org)
Feb 26, 2003

The new bird flu virus that has killed at least one person in South China is genetically different from the avian flu strain that infected 18 people in Hong Kong and killed six of them in 1997. But, like the 1997 virus, the new strain does not appear to contain sequences from human flu viruses that would speed its spread from person to person, lessening fears that a lethal pandemic flu may be imminent.

"The bottom line is that we do not know enough about influenza viruses to predict which virus will be transmissible efficiently from human to human," Malik Peiris, a microbiologist at the University of Hong Kong who is studying the new virus, told The Scientist.

Peiris says he is reassured by the fact that the bird virus has not reassorted with a human influenza virus, which probably hampers its ability to infect people. "However, it is...

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