The genome of the deadly virus behind influenza infections was mapped by a team of researchers from the U.K., Australia and the U.S. The researchers reported that the mapped genetic structure of the virus will shed more light on how its eight single-stranded RNA segments are interconnected.
Why the Need for Studying This Virus?
Scientists are reportedly in fear that the deadly influenza virus may one day mutate and give rise to a more lethal virus that would be able to spread quickly.
“As time passes, microbiologists and health officials worry that a future deadly strain of influenza will spread easily.”
“Such a virus would likely result in a global pandemic, killing millions of people the world over.” MedicalExpress reported.
For this reason, many researchers have since embarked on the study of the different viruses that may cause influenza.
This research published in the journal Nature Microbiology is one of the notable progresses made by scientists so far.
Information Unlocked by the Research
The mapping of the genetic structure of the RNA segments of the influenza A virus is assumed would be able to elucidate the process of the influenza virus formation.
“This is important because they are part of the means by which new viruses are formed.”
The researchers were able to discover a trend in past pandemics. According to them, the viruses involved in the pandemics have the potential of reassortment.
“… a virus that infects one species, such as a bird, swaps genes with a virus that infects individuals from another species, such as humans.” The MedicalExpress reported.
The gene swapping according to the researchers will result in the formation of a new virus that is alien to the immune system of the host, thereby rendering it vulnerable. The main region involved in the swapping process was highlighted by the researchers to be segments located at the structure where all of the ribonucleoproteins are tightly packed together.
“The researchers note that the segments are contained in individual viral ribonucleoprotein complexes where they are packed together into single virus particles.”
“In learning more about how the segments lock together, researchers will be able to identify which viruses are compatible with other viruses, providing a watch list of sorts for future pandemic candidates.” The report also noted.
It Is Impossible to Predict Pandemics with Findings
The researchers dissuade any notion of using their discovery in predicting the occurrence of a pandemic. Their results according to them could only be used to identify influenza viruses that are capable of easily swapping genes.
Possessing such knowledge will significantly increase the possibility of developing a vaccine that will efficiently protect people from future infections.
“… But knowing which viruses are more easily able to swap genes, it narrows down the possibilities, which could speed up the development of a vaccine.”
The research is a breakthrough discovery that could only be leveraged to invent more potent vaccines and easily predict the extent of the danger posed by an influenza virus responsible for any pandemic.