|August 1, 2012
Seal flu could pose a new threat to human health, scientists have warned.
A new flu virus identified in American harbour seals has the potential to pass to other mammals, including humans, say experts.
The H3N8 strain was discovered after the death of 162 New England harbour seals last year.
Post-mortem examinations of five of the animals showed they were killed by a flu infection.
The strain is closely related to one that has been circulating in North American birds since 2002. But unlike the bird strain, it has adapted to living in mammals.
It has also evolved mutations known to ease transmission and cause more severe symptoms. Specifically, the virus has the ability to target proteins known as cytokines found in human lungs.
This could cause the immune system to go into overdrive and attack itself, causing tissue damage.
Dr Anne Moscona, from Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, who led the researchers, said: 'There is a concern that we have a new mammalian-transmissible virus to which humans haven't been exposed yet. It's a combination we haven't seen in disease before.'Read More...