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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Holy Flu Virus, Batman!

Published March 13, 2012 8:23 AM by Valerie Newitt

It's enough to make you go batty. A never-before-seen strain of influenza A virus has been discovered, this time in bats. Its risk to humans, if any, has not been ascertained. While Russian virologists claimed to have discovered just such a virus half a decade ago, they provided no supporting evidence.

But it's a different game now. According to a New York Daily News report: "The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a flu virus is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven't been able to grow it, and it's not clear if - or how well - it spreads."

A CDC study underlying the discovery was published online Feb. 27 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"This is the first time an influenza virus has been identified in bats, but in its current form the virus is not a human health issue," study lead author Dr. Suxiang Tong, team leader of the Pathogen Discovery Program in the CDC's viral diseases division, said in a CDC news release. "The study is important because the research has identified a new animal species that may act as a source of flu viruses." In addition, the CDC study suggests that initial research reveals that the bat flu genes are compatible with human flu viruses.

However, study co-author Dr. Ruben Donis, chief of the Molecular Virology and Vaccines Branch in the CDC's influenza division, explains in the news release, "Fortunately, initial laboratory testing suggests the new virus would need to undergo significant changes to become capable of infecting and spreading easily among humans. A different animal -- such as a pig, horse or dog -- would need to be capable of being infected with both this new bat influenza virus and human influenza viruses for reassortment to occur."

Flu Trivia:

A new strain of influenza A virus has been discovered in bats. What does this mean to humans? Read about it here. And just for some flu fun (yes, I actually said that), can you name the top ten animals that carry flu?

They are:

  • 1. Chicken
  • 2. Pigs
  • 3. Ducks
  • 4. Geese
  • 5. Turkeys
  • 6. Horses
  • 7. Dogs
  • 8. Cats
  • 9. Seals
  • 10. Whales


posted by Valerie Newitt


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