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Chronic flu patients could be an early warning system for future outbreaks

Viral mutations from long-term infections predict later strains making worldwide rounds

By
4:46pm, June 27, 2017
flu virus

FLU REVIEW  Observing mutations that tweak proteins on the surface of the flu virus (3-D representation, shown) in people with long-term infections may give researchers a preview of how the virus will morph as it spreads globally years later.

People with weakened immune systems might help scientists get a jump on the flu virus.

Some flu virus mutations popped up again and again in cancer patients with long-term infections, researchers report June 27 in eLife. And some of those mutations were the same as ones found in flu viruses circulating around the world a few years later, evolutionary virologist Jesse Bloom of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and colleagues discovered. The findings may eventually help vaccine developers predict flu strain evolution.

“You can’t predict what’s going to happen next year,” — at least not yet, Bloom says. But monitoring infections in many people may indicate which parts of the virus are most likely to change in the future.

Most people who catch the flu get over it in about a week. Previous studies have suggested that the virus doesn’t change much within one

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