Angry birds: How does Avian Influenza Virus infect Human cells?

14/01/2016 - 3 minutes

What does the bird flu virus have to change in order to takeover the human cell machinery? For the first time, researchers from Imperial College London have identified the pathway that allows Avian flu virus to hop from bird’s to mammalian cells.

imperial_biofuelsInfluenza pandemics aren’t easy to predict: outbreaks occur when zoonotic influenza viruses suddenly acquire the ability to infect humans… A new study published in Nature points to the protein ANP32A as the key to switching hosts.

Once the viruses enters a host cell, the avian virus polymerase use the host’s ANP32A protein as an ‘insider’, allowing the virus to sneakily replicate. This ANP32A protein is present in both humans and bird cells, but in a shorter isoform, which hinders the viruses’ ability to replicate well within the host.

Therefore, the only way bird flu viruses can use the mammalian protein, is carrying a mutation that adapts themselves for the shorter version.

The experiments, that were performed using used hamster-chicken hybrid cells,

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