Neither, it turns out. The virus’s breeding grounds are in Asia, a crew of virus-hunters has found, and it then teems out to take over the world anew each year. New varieties almost always evolve in Asia and then hitch a ride with travelers, spreading to Europe, Australia and North America and finally to South America, where they die away.
The work may make the flu vaccine even better than it already is. Because the flu virus is constantly evolving, scientists meet at the World Health Organization twice a year to decide whether to update the vaccine. Their job is made harder because they have to decide on a formulation a year in advance of when the flu will actually hit, to allow time for the vaccine to be manufactured and administered. So they have to predict which of the strains of flu virus are going to be causing the most disease a year down the line.
“In order to try to predict how flu viruses might evolve, we have to understand how they’re moving around the world and where they’re evolving,” says Derek Smith, now of the University of Cambridge and formerly of the Santa Fe Institute, corresponding author of the research. Asia, the study suggests, is the best place to look for up-and-coming strains.
The team published its findings April 18 in Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/320/5874/340).
The team traced the virus’s steps by studying 13,000 flu samples from around the world. The World Health Organization Global Influenza Surveillance Network collected this data between 2002 and 2007, keeping track of when and where different strains of the virus popped up. They analyzed the shape differences between the proteins each virus uses to bind to human cells, along with the genetic makeup of each virus.
The team used this information to create an “antigenic map” which visually shows the relationships between all the different viruses. This map allowed them to determine the migration patterns of the virus around the world.
The work was funded by an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (http://nihroadmap.nih.gov/pioneer) to Smith given for highly innovative research that has the potential for big impacts.
The roots of the project extend all the way back to when Smith was a graduate fellow at the Santa Fe Institute doing a PhD with Stephanie Forrest and Alan Perelson. He later began collaborating with Alan Lapedes, Robert Farber, and Terry Jones, all of whom were also affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, to develop the methods and software to build antigenic maps.
“This work is highly multidisciplinary, with epidemiologists, computer scientists, computational biologists, mathematicians, virologists, immunologists, geneticists, veterinarians, and MDs,” Smith says. “It was made possible by collaborations with people from all of these disciplines. The Santa Fe Institute is one of the few places that could have gestated such work and I am immensely grateful for the 5 years I spent at SFI.”
Derek Smith | EurekAlert!
One gene closer to regenerative therapy for muscular disorders
01.06.2017 | Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
The gut microbiota plays a key role in treatment with classic diabetes medication
01.06.2017 | University of Gothenburg
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences