One thing that is consistent about viruses is that they constantly mutate. This is why new flu vaccines have to be produced every year. Now it’s been announced that avian flu has reached Europe?that’s the bad news about viruses. The good news? The virus that causes HIV, which leads to AIDS, is getting weaker.
Debora MacKenzie writes in New Scientist that it’s been discovered that the bird flu contacted by poultry in Turkey recently is the same H5N1 strain that was found in Siberian poultry in August. What does that mean for us in the US? It means that the H5N1 virus will be here soon, able to be transmitted from person to person. Avian flu is called “bird flu” because it was originally only able to be transmitted from poultry to humans, usually the Asian children whose job was feeding their family’s flocks of chickens and ducks.
H5N1 is the same virus that has been found in wild birds in China and has spread to the rest of Asia from there. It?s the virus that doctors think will cause a flu pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu, although not all health workers are in agreement about this.
While AIDS doesn’t affect Americans as much as it does in places like Africa, for instance, it is still a major problem here. New evidence suggests that the AIDS virus, HIV, may be weakening. Scientists in Belgium discovered this when they compared samples of HIV-1, the most dangerous strain of the virus, from the 1980s and 2002.
Laboratory tests showed that the older viruses were significantly multiplied more easily and were better able to resist anti-retroviral drugs. This is unusual, since viruses usually mutate in ways that are to their advantage, in order to fend off extinction. Bacteria, which also mutate, become superbugs when they do this.
Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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