Just a few genetic tweaks could turn an influenza virus found in pigs into the next pandemic threat in people.
At least one virus isolated from pigs in Korea may already have potential to cause disease in people, researchers report online September 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The virus caused severe flu in ferrets, a favored proxy for humans in flu research, and grew in human lung tissue in the lab.
“That makes it a bit scary,” says study coauthor Robert Webster, a virologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. So far, the virus has not been found in people, but “if it is in the pig, beware,” he says.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.