A strain of bird flu has adapted to create a new version which increases the chances of a human pandemic, according to scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The adaptation was found in a strain of H7N2, which can now spread more easily among mammals. The change allowed the virus to thrive in the sugars of the human throat, a key flash point for researchers studying mutations that could lead to an epidemic.
Most of the research in the field has centered on the lethal H5N1 bird flu strain, which has yet to mutate into a virus that can be easily transmitted among humans. But H7 strains also have the potential to spark an epidemic.
"The finding underscores the necessity for continued surveillance and study of these viruses as they continue to resemble viruses with pandemic potential," said Dr Terrence Tumpey, a microbiologist with the CDC.