New strain of H1N1 influenza may carry dangerous mutations

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Since December, an outbreak of swine flu in India has killed more than 1,200 people, and a new MIT study suggests that the strain has acquired mutations that make it more dangerous than previously circulating strains of H1N1 influenza. The findings, which appear in the March 11 issue of Cell Host & Microbe, contradict previous reports from Indian health officials that the strain has not changed from the version of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating around the world ever since. With very little scientific data available about the new strain, the MIT researchers stress the need for better surveillance to track the outbreak and to help scientists to determine how to respond to this influenza variant. "We're really caught between a rock and a hard place, with little information and a lot of misinformation," says Ram Sasisekharan, the Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT and the paper's senior author. "When you do real-time surveillance, get organized, and deposit these sequences, then you can come up with a better strategy to respond to the virus." More via ScienceDaily.

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