Posted by: kenwbudd | July 6, 2009

H1N1: How Swine Flu kills

As the H1N1 swine flu pandemic continues to spread around the world, most cases are still mild but reports are starting to emerge of people who sicken and die very quickly of what appears to be viral pneumonia. Now two independent groups of scientists have now found out why and it’s all down to where the virus binds within the body.

H1N1 swine flu comes from pigsMovie Camera, so it binds well to cell-surface molecules in the respiratory tracts of other mammals, including humans but there are slight differences in the way different flu proteins bind to these receptors.

Two separate teams – one led by Ron Fouchier at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the other by Terrence Tumpey at the Centres for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia – both report that the pandemic virus binds deeper than ordinary flu in the respiratory tract of ferrets, the animal most like humans when it comes to flu.

A virus of the same H1N1 family as the pandemic flu has been circulating as ordinary seasonal flu since 1977. Both groups found that the seasonal virus binds almost exclusively to cells in the ferrets’ noses. But, the pandemic H1N1 binds deeper, in the lung’s trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. The pandemic virus also replicated more, and caused more damage, though none of the ferrets were severely ill.

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