“It’s finally out. After months of will-they-won’t they and should-they-shouldn’t-they deliberations, Nature has finally published a paper about a mutant strain of bird flu that can spread between mammals.”
This is the Kawaoka paper, which in fact was the LESS contentious one. Ed Yong in Discover magazine comes up with four important themes from the paper, which to my mind show we were right to agitate and demand that the material be published.
One: H5N1 can evolve to spread between mammals with worrying ease
Two: There appear to be two traits that make for a transmissible virus – specificity and stability.
Three: It’s not the mutations that matter, but what they do. Or, don’t miss the wood for the trees.
Four: Wild viruses are almost there.
One and four are the important points: flu viruses can evolve quickly and easily, and wild H5N1 is nearly at the point that it will leap into mammals. The virus is endemic in several countries, like Indonesia, where wild birds, tame birds, pigs and people rub shoulders on a daily basis: this is a natural melting pot for influenza virus reassortment and adaptation, that may at any moment see a pandemic virus burst out.
Or not – it may as easily be a H7NX virus that will be The Big One.
But it is as well to be prepared – and censorship wasn’t going to allow that.
Thanks @AJCann for alerting me to this.
See on blogs.discovermagazine.com