Scientists: bird flu will turn into a «super virus» is just two mutations

© Fotolia / Dan RaceУченый with a model DNA in a test tubeScientists: bird flu will turn into a «super virus» is just two mutations© Fotolia / Dan Race

. Bird flu H7N9 will become sverhsekretnye virus that can kill people and cause large-scale epidemics after the acquisition of only two mutations, say scientists in an article published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

«We didn’t create these viruses and did not check whether it is transmitted by droplets in the presence of those mutations that we have discovered. It is possible that these mutations change how the virus interacts with receptors on human cells, would be sufficient to purchase them this ability, but does not exclude the possibility that this will require other mutations,» said James Paulson (James Poulson) from the SCRIPPS Institute in La JOLLA (USA).

Outbreaks of avian (H5N1) and swine a (H3N2) influenza in the late 2000s has caused serious concerns among virologists and physicians, who claimed the threat of an influenza pandemic, similar in scale to the pandemic of influenza»Spanish flu» in 1918, which claimed millions of lives. However, while these viruses can’t spread the traditional flu airborne and be transmitted from person to person, the threat of a pandemic is not. These types of influenza infect only those people who are in close contact with birds or pigs.

In the spring of 2013 in the South of China, there have been outbreaks that have caused previously unknown strain of bird flu H7N9. For the first half of the year has infected more than 130 people, approximately one third of which died from exhaustion or complications. In March this year, Chinese scientists found that the virus can sometimes be transmitted from person to person, what has forced doctors to pay close attention.

Paulson and his colleagues analyzed new H7N9 samples obtained from hospitals in Hong Kong and other cities in the Southeast of China, and found that the virus had mutated and gained a few new changes in the structure of its shell. This led the scientists to re-examine how new strains of H7N9 close to becoming a «super virus».

The fact is that back in 2011, known to virologists of Yoshihiro of Kawaoka and Ron Fouche showed by experimenting on ferrets, most of the species of «bird flu» can learn to spread through the air and kill a large number of people by purchasing all three mutations. These experiments caused a public outcry and scientists are actually forbidden to conduct experiments on the «improvement» of the flu virus in the United States and Europe.

Nature, as the analysis of Paulson and his colleagues considered such a ban and is now H7N9 is already in three and two steps away from turning into «superbugs», having a mutation that allows it to attach to the walls of human cells.

To complete the transformation of the virus of bird flu needs just two changes in one of its shell proteins, the hemagglutinin, which it uses to attach to a special «tail» on the cell surface and entering inside of her.

As the scientists to such conclusions they came to in the course of experiments on fragments of the shell of the virus, not after the experiments on mammals that can not be 100% sure that these two mutations do enough to create a «super virus».

For further study of this virus, according to Paulson and his colleagues, the necessary animal experiments, currently banned in the US because of fears that the results of such experiments will help the terrorists to develop biological weapons. As scientists hope that this problem can be solved in other countries where no such bans, for example, in China or in other Asian States.