UK researchers discover human gene with potential to thwart Bird Flu
UK researchers have identified a human gene, BTN3A3, that has the potential to hinder most bird flu viruses from infecting humans, highlighting its significance in assessing the pandemic potential of avian influenza strains.
In a groundbreaking discovery, scientists from the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research in the UK have identified a human gene that shows promising potential in preventing most bird flu viruses from infecting humans. The finding could have significant implications for understanding and combating avian influenza.
The research team examined hundreds of genes expressed by human cells, studying their behavior during infection with either human seasonal viruses or avian flu viruses. Through their investigations, they honed in on a gene known as BTN3A3, which is expressed in both the upper and lower respiratory tract of humans. This gene, affectionately nicknamed B-force by the researchers, was found to impede the replication of most strains of bird flu in human cells.
Interestingly, the gene's antiviral activity did not extend to protection against seasonal human flu viruses. BTN3A3 is part of a broader defense mechanism within the human immune system designed to counter bird viruses.
Remarkably, the researchers observed that all historical human influenza pandemics, including the devastating 1918-19 global flu pandemic, were caused by influenza viruses that were resistant to BTN3A3. This observation suggests that the presence or absence of this gene may be a key determinant in whether a specific bird flu strain has the potential to cause a pandemic in humans.
While this breakthrough research sheds light on the human immune response to bird flu viruses, further investigations are necessary to fully understand the complex interplay between genes and viral evolution. Nevertheless, the identification of BTN3A3 opens up exciting possibilities for future research and the development of strategies to combat avian influenza and potentially mitigate the risk of pandemics.
Bird flu, primarily transmitted among wild birds such as ducks and gulls, can also infect farmed birds and domestic poultry, including chickens, turkeys, and quails. While these viruses primarily impact birds, they can occasionally spill over into bird predators and, in rare cases, humans who come into close contact with infected birds.
As global health authorities remain vigilant, the study underscores the importance of ongoing surveillance and preparedness in addressing emerging infectious diseases, particularly those originating from animal reservoirs.