Scientists await the mutation (or not) of H1N1

PHILADELPHIA — Infectious disease experts are awaiting an infinitesimal event of momentous importance: the mutation of the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are constantly monitoring the virus as it spreads," said John Tudor, Ph.D., a microbiologist and professor of biology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, "but there is no way to predict where, when or if mutation will occur."

A mutation may not be disastrous, Tudor pointed out.

"Even if a mutation occurs, it is likely that an H1N1 vaccine would still provide a significant level of protection against related strains. The level of protection would depend on how closely related the mutated strain is to the strain(s) used in producing the vaccine."

Tudor warns that taking Tamiflu to avoid infection could contribute to the virus becoming resistant. " Like any other medication, we need to use it appropriately for it to be effective. The CDC recommends against giving flu drugs to healthy people in order to prevent illness."

In the meantime, Tudor is keeping his fingers crossed, hoping for the less virulent mutation, or no mutation at all.