Friday, June 22, 2012

Bird flu pandemic just "three mutations" away, scientists show

A bird flu pandemic may be close to being a real threat after scientists discovered the virus is already just "three mutations" away from evolving into a strain which would be able to pass from human to human.

Avian H5N1 influenza can currently only be transmitted to humans from birds, meaning it cannot spread quickly through the air between large groups of people.

But a recent study at Cambridge University shows that there are strains already existing which are just "three mutations" away from being passable form one human to another.

It suggests the airborne strain could evolve naturally in the wild – even in one person.

Prof Derek Smith, one of the Cambridge researchers, said the study had shown that the risk – like an earthquake fault line – did exist but remained difficult to say if and when it might become reality.

He said: "With the information we have, it is impossible to say what the exact risk is of the virus becoming airborne transmissible among humans. Read More