Prickly flu

SPIKES on the surface of the flu virus provide strong clues about which strains will prove most dangerous, say researchers in the US. Protein spikes on the influenza A virus frequently change and allow it to evade its host’s immune defences. Robin Bush at the University of California at Irvine and his colleagues have identified a small region of the spike gene in which mutations appear to change the spikes. By looking at which flu strains showed the most mutation in this region, it would have been possible to predict the dominant flu strain for the following year in nine of the eleven most recent flu seasons. The technique could allow health authorities to predict and prepare for coming epidemics (Science, vol 286,
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