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News Link • Pandemic

Keeping an eye on bird flu

 Influenza viruses that emerge from birds or pigs can create pandemic flu if they gain the ability to spread from person to person. New research from MIT shows that two recently emerged bird flu strains, which do not spread easily now, could become much more infectious with just one or a few genetic mutations.

The studies, which focused on the H5N1 and H7N9 flu strains, should help public health officials monitor evolving flu viruses for potential human-to-human transmission. They could also guide the development of new vaccines, says Ram Sasisekharan, the Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering and senior author of two papers appearing in the June 6 online edition of the journal Cell.

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