New method helps fighting future pandemics

July 6, 2017, Stockholm University

By developing a new technique for labeling the gene segments of influenza viruses, researchers now know more about how influenza viruses enter the cell and establish cell co-infections – a major contributing factor to potential pandemic development.

Seasonal are estimated to cause 3-5 million cases of severe illness each year. Since the most severe infections are caused by influenza type A and type B viruses, the available vaccines provide coverage against these two types. However, influenza viruses are constantly evolving, which requires that vaccines are designed to match the circulating variants of the each year.

Influenza viruses evolve by acquiring mutations in the viral or by a process called reassortment. Reassortment, which was responsible for the 2009 pandemic virus, occurs when one or more of the eight genome segments are exchanged between two different influenza viruses.

With current techniques it is not easy to make comparative analysis of influenza viruses with single mutations in their genomes, and it is extremely difficult to identify factors that limit the reassortment process between two influenza genomes that have infected the same cell. Through a collaborative effort, scientists from Stockholm University, SciLifeLab, Karolinska Institute and the Leibniz Institute developed a procedure to analyze influenza virus infections in cells and lung tissue by labeling and visualizing the viral genome.

The specificity of the approach enabled the researchers to visualize the delivery of the eight influenza genome segments to the cell nucleus where the virus replicates, and to analyze co-infections by two influenza viruses that differed by single mutations. Using this technique, the researchers concluded that productive cell co-infections, which are necessary for reassortment, only occur when both viruses enter the same cell within two hours.

"This unique approach will make it easier to evaluate how new mutations affect influenza pathogenicity and help to identify the underlying properties that enable or restrict influenza gene segment reassortment", says Robert Daniels, the lead researcher from Stockholm University. "This can help the community predict the possibility of two strains reassorting into a potential pandemic virus. While further research is needed to achieve these goals, the current approach can already help to characterize and assess treatments aimed at inhibiting influenza entry into . Through additional improvements the technique also has potential diagnostic applications for identifying virus infections as well as many other pathogens."

The research is published in the scientific journal Cell Reports.

Explore further: Researchers develop mouse that could provide advance warning of next flu pandemic

More information: Dan Dou et al. Analysis of IAV Replication and Co-infection Dynamics by a Versatile RNA Viral Genome Labeling Method, Cell Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.06.021

Related Stories

Researchers develop mouse that could provide advance warning of next flu pandemic

April 10, 2017
Researchers in Germany have developed a transgenic mouse that could help scientists identify new influenza virus strains with the potential to cause a global pandemic. The mouse is described in a study, "In vivo evasion of ...

Researchers monitor for next novel influenza strain

March 4, 2015
As seasonal influenza cases decrease across the United States, Kansas State University researchers are preparing for the next potential virulent strain of flu.

New, more effective strategy for producing flu vaccines

December 5, 2016
A team of researchers led by Yoshihiro Kawaoka, professor of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, has developed technology that could improve the production of vaccines ...

Researchers find bat influenza viruses unlikely threaten human health

October 30, 2014
Bats seen at Halloween this year may not be quite as scary as they appear – at least when it comes to the spread of specific viruses. A research project conducted in part by a team of researchers in the College of Veterinary ...

Recommended for you

Reconstructing Zika's spread

May 24, 2018
The urgent threat from Zika virus, which dominated news headlines in the spring and summer of 2016, has passed for now. But research into how Zika and other mosquito-borne infections spread and cause epidemics is still very ...

Molecular network boosts drug resistance and virulence in hospital-acquired bacterium

May 24, 2018
In response to antibiotics, a gene regulation network found in the bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii acts to boost both virulence and antibiotic resistance. Edward Geisinger of Tufts University School of Medicine and colleagues ...

Past use of disinfectants and PPE for Ebola could inform future outbreaks

May 24, 2018
Data from the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak at two Sierra Leone facilities reveal daily usage rates for disinfectant and personal protective equipment, informing future outbreaks, according to a study published May 24, 2018 in ...

Tick bite protection: New CDC study adds to the promise of permethrin-treated clothing

May 24, 2018
The case for permethrin-treated clothing to prevent tick bites keeps getting stronger.

Early lactate measurements appear to improve results for septic patients

May 24, 2018
On October 1, 2015, the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bundle of recommendations defining optimal treatment of patients suffering from sepsis, a life-threatening response to infection ...

Dengue: Investigating antibodies to identify at-risk individuals

May 23, 2018
Using an original mathematical and statistical analysis method, a team of scientists from the Institut Pasteur partnered with researchers from the United States and Thailand to analyze a Thai cohort that has long been a focus ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.