Thursday, January 12, 2006

Scientists say bird flu virus mutating

GENETIC tests of samples taken from Turkish victims of the bird flu virus show it has made a small change, but probably not enough to make it more dangerous yet, researchers said. The mutation is one of those that would be expected in a highly changeable virus, the experts said – and is one of those that would be predicted to eventually allow it to cause a pandemic.

H5N1 avian influenza has caused a burst of human infections in Turkey and has been found in flocks of poultry across the country. It has killed at least two children in Turkey, probably three, and infected a total of 18 people, according to Turkish authorities and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Globally it has infected just 147 people and killed 78 of them, according to the tally from the WHO, which only includes four of the Turkish cases.

Samples from two of the first Turkish victims were sent to a WHO-affiliated laboratory in Britain for analysis. Scientists are carefully watching the virus to see if it makes the changes needed to allow it to easily pass from human to human – which could spark a pandemic that could kill millions.

There were two different strains of virus in the bodies of the teenage victims, said Dr. Ruben Donis, team leader of the molecular genetics team of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza branch.

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Posted by john T. on 01/12 at 01:14 PM
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