Influenza B virus offers pandemic clues

Oct. 16, 2007 at 10:46 AM

HOUSTON, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say the structure of a protein on the influenza B virus offers clues about mutations that might result in a flu pandemic.

Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and Rice University compared the protein, called hemagglutinin, with a similar protein found on the surface of the influenza A virus.

Assistant Professor Qinghua Wang , Associate Professor Jianpeng Ma, and colleagues said the comparison might be key to understanding the changes that must occur before avian flu -- a form of the influenza A virus -- mutates to a form that can easily infect humans, said Ma, who holds a joint appointment at Rice.

Ma and Wang have identified a particular residue or portion of the protein that might play a role in how different types of hemagglutinin bind to human cells.

The complex study is presented in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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