Bird flu, pig flu, now bat flu? Human risk unclear

Posted on February 27, 2012

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The surprising discovery of genetic fragments of a is the first well-documented report of it in the winged mammals. So far, scientists haven’t been able to grow it, and it’s not clear if – or how well – it spreads.

bugs are common in humans, birds and pigs and have even been seen in dogs, horses, seals and whales, among others. About five years ago, Russian virologists claimed finding flu in bats, but they never offered evidence.

“Most people are fairly convinced we had already discovered flu in all the possible” animals, said Ruben Donis, a scientist who co-authored the new study.

Scientists suspect that some bats caught flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated within the into this new variety. Scientists haven’t even been able to grow the new virus in or in human cell culture, as they do with more conventional .

But it still could pose a threat to humans. For example, if it mingled with more common forms of influenza, it could swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, a scenario at the heart of the global movie “Contagion.”

The research was posted online Monday in the journal .

Medical Express

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