The recent spread of deadly H5N1 influenza A virus among birds in Asia, Europe, and Africa has been the focus of much attention and concern worldwide--largely because of the danger that the virus will mutate into a form that will become easily transmissible from person to person.
In a new article published online by Science, a research team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in California reveals the structure of an H5 protein from a highly pathogenic strain of H5N1 avian influenza virus and compares this structure to the same proteins from other pandemic influenza A viruses, including the deadly 1918 virus.
Further, they discuss a potential route whereby H5N1 might mutate and acquire human specificity. The work also describes the application of a new technology called glycan microarrays, which can be used to determine whether H5 proteins from various strains of H5N1 target human or bird cells and map how their specificity is changing.
Article: "Structure and Receptor Specificity of the Hemagglutinin from an H5N1 Influenza Virus," James Stevens et al. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1124513 (2006).
Materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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