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UCI Scientists Reconstruct Migration of Avian Flu Virus

hat parallel evolution of different H5N1 strains lets the virus infect and cycle through different host species in a region, regardless of the host or vector species it infects first. This way, the virus can find the right host to spread the infection to the next location. This parallel evolution – the independent evolution of similar traits – enables H5N1 to spread quickly, the scientists believe.

"The ability to develop the right mutation allows the virus to hop from one host type to the next," said Robert Wallace, UCI postdoctoral researcher and lead author of the study. "By spreading across a large area, the virus in essence can run multiple experiments in multiple locations, increasing the likelihood that it will mutate into a form that can be transmitted from human to human."

Avian flu has been isolated almost exclusively among bird populations. The H5N1 virus has only sporadically been passed on from a bird host to humans; there is little evidence that the virus can efficiently be passed on from human to human. Although fewer than 300 recorded human cases of this flu have been recorded worldwide, its high mortality rate raises concerns that if the virus mutates to where humans can pass it on, a flu pandemic may occur.

Source-Eurekalert
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