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13 Jan 06

AP ran a story today saying that a change in one gene has been detected in one case. It is way too early to tell if this is significant. Here are two quotes:

"We assume this could be one small step in the virus' attempt to adapt to humans," said WHO virologist Mike Perdue. "But it's only seen in one isolate and it's difficult to make sweeping conclusions. We just have to wait and see what the rest of the viruses (from Turkey) look like."


Perdue said the U.N. health agency is not alarmed by the finding in a single virus sample because this exact genetic change has been seen before, in samples from southern China in 2003, and it had no impact on the course of the disease, the behavior of the virus or the pattern of human infections.

The 1918 pandemic was made possible only by a series of genetic mutations. This one might or might not be the start of such a series for 2006.

Perhaps a greater risk than a mutation is what might happen if the bird flu virus enters the body of a human who already has an ordinary strain of influenza. In this case all that is required is for the human influenza virus to pass along a few key genes to the bird flu virus. This could easily happen, if I understand the virology correctly.

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