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Article Released Mon-13th-July-2009 14:14 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 H1N1: Characterizing new strains

The swine-origin H1N1 influenza viruses responsible for the recently declared pandemic cause more lung damage than a seasonal influenza strain in animal models, but are still sensitive to antiviral drugs, finds a study published online this week in Nature.

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H1N1: Characterizing new strains
DOI: 10.1038/nature08260

The swine-origin H1N1 influenza viruses responsible for the recently declared pandemic cause more lung damage than a seasonal influenza strain in animal models, but are still sensitive to antiviral drugs, finds a study published online this week in Nature.

Yoshihiro Kawaoka and colleagues characterized virus strains isolated from patients affected by the recent pandemic and assessed their ability to cause disease in four animal models. In mice, ferrets and macaques, infection with the new swine-origin influenza viruses (S-OIVs) is associated with more severe disease than a seasonal H1N1 strain. The viruses can also infect pigs but do not cause disease, which could explain the lack of reports of outbreaks in pigs prior to human transmission.

On closer inspection, the new S-OIVs seem to be closely related to the viruses responsible for the 1918 pandemic, and antibodies collected from patients born before 1920 can recognize them. However, the team could find little evidence that individuals born after 1920 harbour antibodies capable of recognizing the new strains.

All antivirus drugs tested, including Tamiflu, were effective in cell culture against the new virus, lending support to the use of these compounds as a first line of defence against the pandemic.

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Yoshihiro Kawaoka (University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA)
E-mail: kawaokay@svm.vetmed.wisc.edu

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