H1N1 may be mutating

Researchers overseas think that the H1N1 influenza virus may be mutating, but say more study will be needed to determine how deadly the new strain is.

The slightly new strain is beginning to show up in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, reports.

Ian Barr, of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Reference and Research on Influenza, in Melbourne, Australia, told that more study is needed to determine if current H1N1 vaccines can protect against the new strain completely.

“It may represent the start of more dramatic antigenic drift of the pandemic influenza A-(H1N1) viruses that may require a vaccine update sooner than might have been expected,” Barr said, reports.

Influenza strains constantly mutate, which is one reason why people should be vaccinated annually.The H1N1 pandemic was officially declared over in August by the WHO. The current seasonal flu vaccine protects against all three flu strains.

Barr said the new H1N1 variants were first detected in Singapore in early 2010, but have now spread throughout New Zealand and Australia. As of this point, Barr and fellow researchers say the new variant has yet to become significant. Since there have been some cases of people who were vaccinated and becoming infected and several deaths, Barr said the new strain should continue to be monitored closely, reports.

“Already this variant virus has been associated with several vaccine breakthroughs in teenagers and adults vaccinated in 2010 with monovalent pandemic influenza vaccine (protecting against only H1N1) as well as a number of fatal cases from whom the variant virus was isolated,” Barr said, reports.

Barr also said there is not enough evidence to determine if other factors could have made patients more vulnerable.

“It remains to be seen whether this variant will continue to predominate for the rest of the influenza season in Oceania and in other parts of the southern hemisphere and then spread to the northern hemisphere or merely die out,” Barr said, according to