Nav: Home

NIAID flu experts examine evolution of avian influenza

January 18, 2017

Few influenza viruses are as widespread and adaptable as avian influenza viruses, and scientists are not entirely sure why.

In a new commentary published online in Emerging Infectious Diseases, two leading influenza experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, examine how the evolution of proteins found on the surfaces of flu viruses has impacted their ability to infect migratory birds and poultry and cause avian disease.

The article was co-authored by Jeffery Taubenberger, Ph.D., chief of the Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution section of NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, and David Morens, M.D., a senior advisor to the NIAID Director.

The lineage of H5N1, a virus that first gained notoriety in 1977 for killing poultry (and, rarely, humans) and a new group of avian influenza virus called H5Nx both display a binding protein called hemagglutinin 5 (H5) on their surfaces, along with varieties of neuraminidase (N). N is a protein that allows new flu viruses to exit their host cell and infect other cells.

These H5-containing viruses have spread widely around the globe through populations of migratory wild birds. The viruses rarely jump from birds to humans but still can be destructive; H5N8 avian influenza, for example, caused more than $5 billion in poultry losses in the United States in 2015.

New research by Guo et al., which appears in the same issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases, suggests that the H5 in the new H5Nx viruses may confer an evolutionary advantage.

The scientists, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, found that as a particular strain of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza emerged in chickens, it acquired mutations that changed the structure of the hemagglutinin on its surface.

According to Drs. Taubenberger and Morens, this change allowed the hemagglutinin to bind to additional cell receptors in its avian host, which the virus previously could not infect, while also retaining its original binding abilities. This versatility likely made it easier for the virus to infect new hosts, the authors write. They speculate that similar mutations may have played a key role in allowing other strains of H5Nx viruses to spread more rapidly around the globe.

Fortunately, this adaptation that allows the H5Nx viruses to more readily infect a variety of birds may also render them less able to spread to humans, the NIAID authors write. However, if humans and other mammals have previously undiscovered binding sites for this new variety of H5 in their respiratory tracts, according to the authors, H5Nx viruses may eventually be able to evolve to infect people.
-end-
ARTICLE:

J Taubenberger and D Morens. H5Nx panzootic bird flu--Influenza's newest worldwide evolutionary tour. Emerging Infectious Diseases DOI 10.3201/eid2302.161963 (2017).

WHO:

Jeffery Taubenberger, Ph.D., chief of the Viral Pathogenesis and Evolution Section in NIAID's Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, and David Morens, M.D., senior advisor to the NIAID Director, are available for comment.

CONTACT:

To schedule interviews, please contact Elizabeth Deatrick, (301) 402-1663, elizabeth.deatrick@nih.gov.

NIAID conducts and supports research--at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide--to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID website.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health®

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Related Evolution Articles:

Prebiotic evolution: Hairpins help each other out
The evolution of cells and organisms is thought to have been preceded by a phase in which informational molecules like DNA could be replicated selectively.
How to be a winner in the game of evolution
A new study by University of Arizona biologists helps explain why different groups of animals differ dramatically in their number of species, and how this is related to differences in their body forms and ways of life.
The galloping evolution in seahorses
A genome project, comprising six evolutionary biologists from Professor Axel Meyer's research team from Konstanz and researchers from China and Singapore, sequenced and analyzed the genome of the tiger tail seahorse.
Fast evolution affects everyone, everywhere
Rapid evolution of other species happens all around us all the time -- and many of the most extreme examples are associated with human influences.
Landscape evolution and hazards
Landscapes are formed by a combination of uplift and erosion.
New insight into enzyme evolution
How enzymes -- the biological proteins that act as catalysts and help complex reactions occur -- are 'tuned' to work at a particular temperature is described in new research from groups in New Zealand and the UK, including the University of Bristol.
The evolution of Dark-fly
On Nov. 11, 1954, Syuiti Mori turned out the lights on a small group of fruit flies.
A look into the evolution of the eye
A team of researchers, among them a zoologist from the University of Cologne, has succeeded in reconstructing a 160 million year old compound eye of a fossil crustacean found in southeastern France visible.
Is evolution more intelligent than we thought?
Evolution may be more intelligent than we thought, according to a University of Southampton professor.
The evolution of antievolution policies
Organized opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schoolsin the United States began in the 1920s, leading to the famous Scopes Monkey trial.

Related Evolution Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...