What's the Latest Development?
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that 33 people have been infected with the H7N9 strain of the influenza virus which has mutated from its feathered source to infect humans. Researchers tasked with keeping their eye on the possible pandemic have concluded that "the human isolates, but not the avian and environmental ones, have a protein mutation that allows for efficient growth in human cells and that also allows them to grow at a temperature that corresponds to the upper respiratory tract of humans, which is lower than you find in birds." The finding provide the first molecular clues to what could be a deadly pandemic.
What's the Big Idea?
While the avian flu has mutated to infect humans, it is not currently communicable through the air. This adaptation, scientists fear, is the one that could turn the H7N9 strain into a much more serious problem for global health. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who led the recent research into Chinese cases of avian flu, said: "These viruses possess several characteristic features of mammalian influenza viruses, which likely contribute to their ability to infect humans and raise concerns regarding their pandemic potential." The researchers are now assessing the effectiveness of different antiviral treatments that could possibly overcome the illness.
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