H1N1 pandemic virus does not mutate into 'superbug' in new lab study

Sep 01, 2009
This is virologist Daniel Perez in his University of Maryland lab. Credit: University of Maryland

(PhysOrg.com) -- A laboratory study by University of Maryland researchers suggests that some of the worst fears about a virulent H1N1 pandemic flu season may not be realized this year, but does demonstrate the heightened communicability of the virus.

Using ferrets exposed to three different viruses, the Maryland researchers found no evidence that the H1N1 pandemic variety, responsible for the so-called , combines in a lab setting with other flu strains to form a more virulent 'superbug.' Rather, the pandemic virus prevailed and out-competed the other strains, reproducing in the ferrets, on average, twice as much.

The researchers believe their study is the first to examine how the pandemic virus interacts with other flu viruses. The findings are newly published in an online scientific journal designed to fast-track science research and quickly share results with other investigators, PLOS Currents.

"The H1N1 pandemic virus has a clear biological advantage over the two main seasonal flu strains and all the makings of a virus fully adapted to humans," says virologist Daniel Perez, the lead researcher and program director of the University of Maryland-based Prevention and Control of Avian Influenza Coordinated Agricultural Project.

"I'm not surprised to find that the pandemic virus is more infectious, simply because it's new, so hosts haven't had a chance to build immunity yet. Meanwhile, the older strains encounter resistance from hosts' immunity to them," Perez adds.

Some of the animals who were infected with both the new virus and one of the more familiar seasonal viruses (H3N2) developed not only , but intestinal illness as well. Perez and his team call for additional research to see whether this kind of co-infection and multiple symptoms may account for some of the deaths attributed to the new virus.

Among other research findings, the pandemic virus successfully established infections deeper in the ferret's , including the lungs. The H1 and H3 seasonal viruses remained in the nasal passages.

"Our findings underscore the need for vaccinating against the virus this season," Perez concludes. "The findings of this study are preliminary, but the far greater communicability of the pandemic virus is a clearly blinking warning light."

Perez and his team used samples of the H1N1 pandemic variety from last April's initial outbreak of the so-called swine .

Source: University of Maryland (news : web)

Explore further: HPV vaccine reduces prevalence of targeted and non-targeted HPV types

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bird flu vaccine protects people and pets

Oct 20, 2008

A single vaccine could be used to protect chickens, cats and humans against deadly flu pandemics, according to an article published in the November issue of the Journal of General Virology. The vaccine protects birds and ma ...

When flu viruses 'shift and drift', how many vaccines?

Aug 29, 2009

The World Health Organisation's announcement Friday that the 2009 H1N1 virus has become the dominant strain of flu worldwide fits a historical pattern, but the impact on vaccine policy remains unclear, a top expert said. ...

Recommended for you

Obama to announce major Ebola effort

6 hours ago

US President Barack Obama will Tuesday seek to "turn the tide" in the Ebola epidemic by ordering 3,000 US military personnel to West Africa and launching a major health care training and hygiene program.

Sierra Leone: WHO too slow to help doc with Ebola

16 hours ago

Sierra Leone accused the World Health Organization on Monday of being "sluggish" in facilitating an evacuation of a doctor who died from Ebola before she could be sent out of the country for medical care.

Dutch doctors feared to have Ebola leave hospital

16 hours ago

Two Dutch doctors flown home from west Africa after fears they might have been contaminated with the killer Ebola virus have left hospital "in good health," their employer, the Lion Heart Medical Centre, said Monday.

Strategic self-sabotage? MRSA inhibits its own growth

21 hours ago

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have uncovered a bacterial mystery. Against all logic, the most predominant strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in North American produces an enzyme ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2009
Unless they had a couple thousand ferrets in their lab I should have been very surprised if a "super" anything arose - except maybe a super stink. The thing about chance events is that they only happen (wait for it...) by chance.
Jaclyn
not rated yet Oct 08, 2009
How does the H1N1 virus reproduce?