Structure of 'swine flu' virus found

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 10:00 hrs

The structure of a key protein from the virus that caused last year's "swine flu" influenza epidemic has been solved by a team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and other institutions.

The development explain why young people have been more vulnerable than older individuals in recent pandemic.

The structure reveals that the virus shares many features with influenza viruses common in the early 20th century.

The team's findings were published in the March 25, 2010, issue of Science Express, an advance, online publication of selected research papers from the prestigious journal Science.

In the study, the team describes the structure of the hemagglutinin (the influenza virus envelope protein) from the H1N1 swine flu virus that triggered the pandemic in 2009 and is still circulating in the human population. The team then compared the swine flu hemagglutinin protein with a range of different human H1N1 flu viruses in the past century.

"Parts of the 2009 virus are remarkably similar to human H1N1 viruses circulating in the early 20th century," said Scripps Research Professor Ian Wilson, who was the senior author of the study. "Our findings provide strong evidence that exposure to earlier viruses has helped to provide some people with immunity to the recent influenza pandemic."

The information should be useful for scientists and public health officials as they respond to current and future pandemics. (ANI)