Bird Flu Is Only Five Mutations Away From Spreading From Human-To-Human
June 22, 2012
There is always talk about the potential of an outbreak of bird flu in humans, but a new study in the journal Science says the risk of a pandemic is a “serious threat.”
The research team lead by Derek Smith of the University of Cambridge analyzed 15 different strains of H1N5 bird flu and discovered that only five mutations would have to occur for the virus to be able to transmit from human-to-human reported Reuters’ Kate Kelland.
Currently humans can contract the virus from birds, but the virus cannot move from human-to-human. Around 600 cases of humans contracting the virus have been reported historically, when this does happen the virus is usually fatal.
If the current H1N5 virus developed these five mutations, it would be able to be transmitted just like the flu, a very scary thought considering the fatality rate for H1N5 in humans was recorded as 60 percent in 2010.
Smith also noted that two of the mutations are already found in birds and that all of the mutations would only need one mammal host to occur in. That means it would only take one mammal to mutate the disease and create a bird flu pandemic for humans alike.
More research needs to be done, but the report’s assessment is certainly a wake-up call:
Precise estimates of the probability of evolving the remaining mutations for the virus to become a respiratory droplet–transmissible A/H5N1 virus cannot be accurately calculated at this time because of gaps in knowledge of the factors described above. However, the analyses here, using current best estimates, indicate that the remaining mutations could evolve within a single mammalian host, making the possibility of a respiratory droplet–transmissible A/H5N1 virus evolving in nature a potentially serious threat.