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Genetic Mutability

We’ve all heard of bird and swine flu, but bats, which comprise “about a fifth of all known mammalian species,” also carry a diverse host of viruses. By swabbing the rectums of little yellow-shouldered bats, researchers in Guatemala discovered a new influenza virus that defies easy classification. Flu viruses are described by two key genes—hence the name ‘H1N1.’ Tara C. Smith writes “The novel bat virus was a completely new H type—type 17 (provisional, they note, pending further analyses). The NA gene was also highly divergent.” Smith continues “the authors did do some molecular work suggesting that these novel bat viruses could combine with human viruses and form a functional recombinant virus.” It’s only a matter of time. Meanwhile Abbie Smith explains why some individuals won’t develop immunity from a vaccine. She writes “Measles needs a protein on the surface of your cells in order to successfully mediate infection: CD46.” The virus must interact with this protein to infect a cell, but antibodies generated by a vaccine get in the way. Looking at the CD46 gene, researchers found that “children who had mutations at the right spot, in a particular flavor, seemed to respond better than others. But if a child had a mutation at the right spot, but not a mutation of the right flavor, they didnt respond as well.” Luckily, herd immunity can protect non-responders—as long as everyone else gets vaccinated too.