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NIAID media availability: New study describes key protein from highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu virus and how it might mutate

WHAT: 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 March 16 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.


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Contact: Jason Bardi
jbardi@niaid.nih.gov
301-402-1663
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
16-Mar-2006


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