Molecules and acid-sensitivity key to pandemic influenza

Hemagglutinin present on the influenza virus’s surface can improve its stability. | File photo

Researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently discovered that the hemagglutinin protein has a molecular property that was part of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza virus pandemic.

This discovery could help researchers predict viruses that are more likely to develop into pandemics. Using this research, scientists will be able to detect and control influenza viruses that are more significant threats than other viruses.

"We have identified hemagglutinin acid stability as an essential property of pandemic viruses," Dr. Charles Russell, an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases who led the research, said. "These findings should aid pandemic preparedness by helping officials recognize and prioritize circulating animal viruses for surveillance, vaccine production and other measures."

The study, available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences scientific journal, suggests that hemagglutinin present on the influenza virus’s surface can improve its stability if it is in an environment that is acidic. This happened in 2009 as the H1N1 virus transmitted between swine and people.

This is important because hemagglutinin is crucial to the viral binding process between the virus and the host cells, allowing the virus to spread throughout the body.

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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital 262 Danny Thomas Pl Memphis, TN - 38105-3678

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