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Anatomy of an outbreak
Date:5/5/2011

rains only needed one mutation to spark much larger outbreaks. And now, a strain that emerged from Africa in 2004 seems to be displacing the old Asian strains wherever it goes."

The chikungunya story, Weaver said, demonstrates how small genetic differences among viruses can have dramatic and unexpected effects on their ability to cause human disease. This study also will allow researchers to predict the amount of disease chikungunya may cause if it becomes endemic in the Americas.

"We don't really have the ability to predict when these viruses are going to suddenly mutate and change from one host to another. We can figure out how it happened retrospectively, but we have no idea how many near misses there are," Weaver said. "This was an opportunity to understand one situation where for a long time epidemic emergence didn't happen for a virus in Asia, and how it did happen suddenly when another strain got loose from Africa and started spreading around the globe."


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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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