Scientists reveal how the flu spreads

Scientists reveal how the flu spreads.
Scientists reveal how the flu spreads. | Courtesy of
Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and MIT have discovered how the flu virus and its many strains, some of which are more capable of spreading than others, manage to transmit from person to person.

Scientist have determined how the viruses spread from people’s soft palates, which are the soft tissue portions that sit at the back of the mouth’s roof. This anatomy is an important part in how the flu spreads.

The flu spreads through the air using a virus’ hemagglutinin (HA) protein, which binds to a certain receptor located on the surface of respiratory cells. Certain flu viruses are better at binding to these alpha 2-6 glycan receptors, which are within humans and mammals, while some viruses are better at binding to alpha 2-3 glycan receptors, which are mostly found in birds.

In studying the 2009 strain of H1N1, the scientists found a virus that was skilled in binding to alpha 2-6 receptors. This latest study gave scientists the opportunity to manipulate four mutations into the virus’s HA molecule, allowing it to better bind to alpha 2-3 receptors rather than alpha 2-6.

This discovery will help the researchers to better monitor new strains that could possibly cause worldwide outbreaks and also better understand the transmissibility of the flu.

Further details are available online in Nature.

Organizations in this Story

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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