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Swine flu outcompetes seasonal flu, unlikely to get more lethal

September 1, 2009 |  9:48 am

Pig A new study by Maryland researchers eases fears that the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus will recombine with seasonal flu to mutate into a more lethal form. The study, reported in the online journal PLoS Currents devoted to research on influenza, shows that the pandemic virus, commonly known as swine flu, grows much faster than seasonal flu viruses and is thus less likely to recombine or exchange genetic material. In fact, the team headed by virologist Daniel Perez of the University of Maryland found no evidence at all of such recombination.

Perez and his colleagues grew the virus in ferrets, which are considered the best animal model for influenza because their respiratory system is very similar to that of humans. They co-infected the animals with the pandemic H1N1 virus and either a seasonal H1N1 virus or a seasonal H3N2 virus. The animals were sickened by both the viruses, but only the swine flu virus went on to infect other ferrets brought into contact with the original animals.

"The H1N1 pandemic virus has a clear biological advantage over the two main seasonal flu strains and alFerretl the makings of a virus fully adapted to humans," Perez said. "I'm not surprised to find that the pandemic virus is more infectious, simply because it is new, so hosts haven't had a chance to build immunity yet. Meanwhile, the older strains encounter resistance from the hosts' immunity to them."

The studies also confirmed findings by other researchers that the swine flu virus is able to grow deeper into the victim's lungs, allowing it to cause viral pneumonia. That may be why some victims with underlying medical conditions are more likely to develop severe illness from infections. They also found that the virus can in some cases grow in the animals' intestines as well. Reports in humans have shown that swine flu causes a higher incidence of diarrhea and gastrointestinal distress than seasonal flu.

The highly infectious nature of the swine flu virus "underscores the need for vaccination against both seasonal influenza and the 2009 H1N1 influenza this fall and winter," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

-- Thomas H. Maugh II

Photo: Blackfoot ferrets. Credit: LuRay Parker / Wyoming Game and Fish

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Comments (14)

A new iPhone application, created by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston in collaboration with the MIT Media Lab, enables users to track and report outbreaks of infectious diseases, such as H1N1 (swine flu), on the ground in real time.

Just a point of clarification, our studies suggest that the virus was present in the intestines of few ferrets but we do not have evidence that the virus was replicating in the intestine. Daniel R. Perez, PhD

this is so stupid you guys r jst trying to scare mothers that worry about there kids.....

H1N1 is the biggest joke since Y2K. It has been nothing but a way for the WHO and US government to create fear and accumulate power. Just more wasted billions.

I've had swine flu. It's nasty and did go straight to my lungs, but I've had one or two other flus in my life that have been just as bad. Also not everyone in our household got it, despite being exposed to it- the virus just didn't seem to like them.

Check it out: Conservatives To Reject Government-Run Swine Flu Vaccinations -

Thanks to the nice docs and scientists for "ferreting out" this encouraging information.

The H1N1 virus isn't hype Billium, it is a very real disease. H1N1 is so highly contagious that even though it is less deadly than other flu strains it will infect more people. That will result in an increased number of fatalities from this flu when compared to the regular flu just because of the sheer volume of infection. More people will become infected and therefor more people will die as a result of complications associated with such diseases.

Sure you have a very high likelihood of having no problems at all if you contract H1N1, but that doesn't mean you should get sick and then infect everyone you come in contact with.

The blase attitude expressed by Billium is exactly what needs to be avoided. You probably won't die from the H1N1 virus if you contract the disease but you may infect someone who infects someone else who dies. Just because you decry the fear-mongering of the US government and the WHO that doesn't mean you should refuse to take the same precautions against H1N1 that you would take to prevent the transmission any extremely contagious disease even those that are not likely to kill such as Chicken Pox.

W.H.O. on statistics always fail to mention that the related deaths to H1N1 all had underlying medical issues. I couldn't believe the garbage they were spewing a couple of weeks ago with their fancy charts and all. W.H.O. is another worthless entity that needs to be scrapped.

So... it's like the flu and the body will build immunities for it, but people still need to get vaccinated. Bull...!

"Swine Flu" did its worst damage on this continent back in the 1500s.
De Soto came to the US and with his soldiers trekked thru what is now the southern US with hundreds of pigs (they were a food source for the troops).
Native populations were devestated by disease and anthropologists are now looking at a virus related to the pigs as the cause.
At any rate, our bodies have been dealing with variations of the swine flu for hundreds of years.
But I guess at 3 shots per person, a lot of money is to be made.

In the end, more people will have died from the seasonal flu last year (38,000) than will die from swine flu this year.

This has been acknowledged by the CDC already when they shot down the White House's crazy predictions of 90,000 dieing.

but hey, a little hype goes a looooong way to sell a healthcare bill.

hasn't the gov't screwed us out of enuff $$ already??? my goodness! all this phony hype over the h1n1 (man-made at that) JUST TO bilk us out of more taxpayer dollars?? if its not going to mutate and become more lethal, why on earth would you want to have people take EXPERIMENTAL vaccines?? this smells like the 1976 fiasco... if that's the case, u might as well force a fat tax on all fast food. it leads directly to obesity AND AN UNTIMELY DEATH. u people are sick new world order propagandist! u can have my shot! i'll take my chances.

Ya maybe when it combines with seasonal flu it's not deadly, but if it were to combine with bird flu which has a mortality rate of like 60-70% then it would be so much more deadly


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