SEP 04, 2016 07:07 AM PDT

Influenza D: the new flu

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans
A, B, C, and now D. That’s the official name of the influenza strain first identified back in 2011 - influenza D.

Ben Hause was the lucky University of South Dakota graduate student who discovered influenza D in a pig, although cows appear to be its primary host. In fact, this is the only known strain of bovine influenza. Hause’s finding helped secure a nearly $400,000 NIH grant to study the new virus.
Influenza D primarily infects cows.
Cows and pigs aren’t the only unlucky hosts, antibodies to influenza D have also been found in sheep and goats - chickens, however, are safe. But, I know what you’re thinking. What about us humans? Luckily, the virus is only 50% similar to influenza C, a strain that does cause disease in humans.

The researchers are using guinea pigs to study virus transmission, noting that it spreads only through direct contact. (Ok, it also infects guinea pigs.) There’s currently no evidence that influenza D infects humans, but according to study author Radhey Kaushik, "if the virus can undergo reassortment in combination with a closely related human influenza virus, it may be able to form a new strain that could pose more of a threat to humans”.

Reassortment is the key. This can occur when cells become infected with two different types of the flu virus. When a flu virus enters the host cell, it makes its way to the nucleus where it unloads all of its genetic material. Then, it hijacks the host cell’s enzymes to replicate its genome. The problem is that the flu virus has a segmented genome - its genome is literally segmented into 8 smaller pieces. So, it’s easy for one strain of flu to accidentally package segments from another, closely related strain of flu into its new viral particles.

When this happens, you may end up with a new, more virulent strain of flu that is also able to infect humans. Remember that human H1N1 pandemic in 2009? That virus was the product of the reassortment of swine, avian, and human flu viruses.
 


Sources: Virology Blog, Science Daily
 
About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
OCT 17, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 17, 2019
Is Climate Change to Blame for the Rise of Candida auris?
In recent years, the fungus Candida auris has emerged as a growing public health threat. The infection is usually serious and tough to treat effectively....
OCT 17, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
OCT 17, 2019
Studying Mice That Harbor the Bacteria That Cause Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is on the rise, and researchers are working to learn more about how it's transmitted....
OCT 17, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 17, 2019
Developing a Framework for Microbiome Research
Scientists and clinicians are beginning to recognize the power of the microbiome - the microbes that we carry in and on our bodies....
OCT 17, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 17, 2019
A Microbe That Makes Methane From Oil is Found in the Gulf of Mexico
Archaea occupy their own branch on the tree of life and exist in some of the most extreme environments on the planet....
OCT 17, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 17, 2019
Antidepressants and Serotonin Impact Gut Microbiota
About 90% of the serotonin found in the human body is made in the gut. Some bacteria can encourage the release of serotonin from gut cells....
OCT 17, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
OCT 17, 2019
Why TB and HIV Occur Together So Often
Tuberculosis (TB) is among the world’s leading causes of death, and is the primary cause of death in people who are HIV-positive....
Loading Comments...