Study finds air, land commutes tied to regional flu virus variations

Influenza viruses spread via public transportation systems in the U.S.
Influenza viruses spread via public transportation systems in the U.S. | Courtesy of

A study published recently in PLOS Pathogens indicates that commuter road and air travel impact how the influenza virus spreads throughout the U.S.

With local viral transmission, viruses attack host populations in a pattern that resembles a wave. As the viruses mutate, the wave patterns in local transmission should create a correlating wave pattern representing genetic variation within the geographic distance between the genetic change and the locations.

Unfortunately, the modern world is highly mobile, and patterns of viral transmission are much more complicated. Now viruses commute on the same air, road and rail travel routes as humans.

To study the way genetic variation is connected to spatial distribution in modern, mobile societies, Leslie Real and Brooke Bozick from Atlanta’s Emory University conducted a study to determine whether distance measures in commuter and airline transportation networks are tied to influenza's varying genetic structures throughout the U.S.

The scientists calculated that approximately 1.6 million people travel via interstate aviation networks each day during influenza season. Many of the states are well connected with neighboring states. More than 3.8 million people make their daily commutes across state borders via Interstate ground travel commuter networks.

The scientists then studied how the flu’s genetic variations manifested throughout 10 flu seasons.

They discovered that all three distance metrics showed connections with genetic distance, but commuter networks were particularly connected to genetic distance.

Organizations in this Story

Emory University

Want to get notified whenever we write about Emory University ?
Next time we write about Emory University, we'll email you a link to the story. You may edit your settings or unsubscribe at any time.