Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Genetic structure and related subtypes

The N in H5N1 stands for "Neuraminidase", as depicted in this ribbon diagram.

H5N1 is a subtype of the species Influenza A virus of the Influenzavirus A genus of the Orthomyxoviridae family. Like all other influenza A subtypes, the H5N1 subtype is an RNA virus. It has a segmented genome of eight negative sense, single-strands of RNA, abbreviated as PB2, PB1, PA, HA, NP, NA, MP and NS.

HA codes for hemagglutinin, an antigenic glycoprotein found on the surface of the influenza viruses and is responsible for binding the virus to the cell that is being infected. NA codes for neuraminidase, an antigenic glycosylated enzyme found on the surface of the influenza viruses. It facilitates the release of progeny viruses from infected cells.[19]
The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) RNA strands specify the structure of proteins that are most medically relevant as targets for antiviral drugs and antibodies. HA and NA are also used as the basis for the naming of the different subtypes of influenza A viruses. This is where the H and N come from in H5N1.

Influenza A viruses are significant for their potential for disease and death in humans and other animals. Influenza A virus subtypes that have been confirmed in humans, in order of the number of known human pandemic deaths that they have caused, include:

  • H1N1, which caused "Spanish flu" and currently causes seasonal human flu
  • H2N2, which caused "Asian flu"
  • H3N2, which caused "Hong Kong flu" and currently causes seasonal human flu
  • H5N1, "Swine Flu," the world's major current pandemic threat
  • H7N7, which has unusual zoonotic potential and killed one person
  • H1N2, which is currently endemic in humans and pigs and causes seasonal human flu
  • H9N2, which has infected three people
  • H7N2, which has infected two people
  • H7N3, which has infected two people
  • H10N7, which has infected two people

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