An analysis of H5N1 influenza samples in Southeast Asia shows not only how the two strains that have caused human disease are related but also that they belong to two different, distinct genetic subgroups. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report their findings today at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
"As the virus continues its geographic expansion, it is also undergoing genetic diversity expansion," says Rebecca Garten, a researcher on the study. "Back in 2003 we only had one genetically distinct population of H5N1 with the potential to cause a human pandemic, now we have two."
Garten and her colleagues conducted a phylogenetic analysis of over 300 H5N1 virus samples taken from both avian and human sources from 2003 through the summer of 2005. They correlated the genetic makeup of viruses to the physical characteristics of viruses, including surface proteins and receptor sites, to determine where each virus should be placed on the H5N1 family tree.
Jim Sliwa | EurekAlert!
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