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!
Millions through license revenues
27.04.2017 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences