New Strain of H1N1 in India Raises Concern

Colorized transmission electron micrograph exhibiting H1N1 influenza virus particles.

New analysis from MIT finds proof {that a} new pressure of H1N1 might carry harmful mutations.

Since December, an outbreak of swine flu in India has killed greater than 1,200 individuals, and a brand new MIT examine means that the pressure has acquired mutations that make it extra harmful than beforehand circulating strains of H1N1 influenza.

The findings, which appear in the March 11 issue of Cell Host & Microbe, contradict earlier stories from Indian well being officers that the pressure has not modified from the model of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and has been circulating all over the world ever since.

With little or no scientific information obtainable concerning the new pressure, the MIT researchers stress the necessity for higher surveillance to trace the outbreak and to assist scientists to find out how to answer this influenza variant.

“We’re actually caught between a rock and a tough place, with little data and so much of misinformation,” says Ram Sasisekharan, the Alfred H. Caspary Professor of Organic Engineering at MIT and the paper’s senior creator. “If you do real-time surveillance, get organized, and deposit these sequences, then you possibly can give you a greater technique to answer the virus.”

Prior to now two years, genetic sequence data of the flu-virus protein hemagglutinin from solely two influenza strains from India has been deposited into publicly obtainable influenza databases, making it tough to find out precisely which pressure is inflicting the brand new outbreak, and the way it differs from earlier strains. Nevertheless, these two strains yielded sufficient data to warrant concern, says Sasisekharan, who can also be a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Most cancers Analysis.

He and Kannan Tharakaraman, a analysis scientist in MIT’s Division of Organic Engineering, in contrast the genetic sequences of these two strains to the pressure of H1N1 that emerged in 2009 and killed greater than 18,000 individuals worldwide between 2009 and 2012.

The researchers discovered that the latest Indian strains carry new mutations in the hemagglutinin protein which can be identified to make the virus extra virulent. Hemagglutinin binds to glycan receptors discovered on the floor of respiratory cells, and the power of that binding determines how successfully the virus can infect these cells.

One of the brand new mutations is in an amino acid place referred to as D225, which has been linked with elevated illness severity. One other mutation, in the T200A place, permits hemagglutinin to bind extra strongly to glycan receptors, making the virus extra infectious.

“Aggressive surveillance”

Sasisekharan factors out that extra surveillance is required to find out whether or not these mutations are current in the pressure that’s inflicting the present outbreak, which is most prevalent in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan and has contaminated greater than 20,000 individuals to date.

“The purpose we’re attempting to make is that there’s a actual want for aggressive surveillance to make sure that the anxiousness and hysteria are introduced down and persons are in a position to concentrate on what they actually need to fret about,” Sasisekharan says. “We have to perceive the pathology and the severity, somewhat than merely counting on anecdotal data.”

Studying extra concerning the new strains may assist public well being officers to find out which medication may be efficient and to design new vaccines for the following flu season, which is able to seemingly embody strains that are actually circulating.

“The objective is to get a clearer image of the strains which can be circulating and due to this fact anticipate the correct of a vaccine technique for 2016,” Sasisekharan says.

David Topham, a professor of microbiology and immunology on the College of Rochester, agrees there’s a sturdy want for extra influenza surveillance.

“Western scientists are simply not paying sufficient consideration to what’s happening in such a big nation as India. If anyone is gathering viruses and sequencing them, they’re not being entered into one of the extra frequent databases the place individuals can have a look at them,” says Topham, who was not concerned in the analysis. “We’re lacking an enormous piece of the puzzle.”

The analysis was funded by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being, the Nationwide Analysis Basis by means of the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Analysis and Know-how, and the Skolkovo Basis.

Publication: Kannan Tharakaraman & Ram Sasisekharan, “Influenza Surveillance: 2014–2015 H1N1 “Swine”-Derived Influenza Viruses from India,” 2015, Cell Host & Microbe, Vol. 17, Subject 3, p279–282; doi:10.1016/j.chom.2015.02.019

Picture: Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Ailments
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