Researchers at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research have made a ground-breaking discovery, identifying a gene with incredible potential to stop future bird flu pandemics. Most humans naturally possess this gene, known as BTN3A3, but until recently, no one was aware of its antiviral capabilities.
The study’s primary author, Dr. Rute Maria Pinto, acknowledged their delight by saying, “It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?” The ability to distinguish which strains of the avian flu virus may be capable of infecting people has been made possible by the new knowledge of this gene’s antiviral properties. This information is essential for developing strong preventative strategies and assessing the likelihood that different bird flu strains could cause pandemics in the future.
By studying the sequence of the avian flu virus and assessing its ability to overcome the BTN3A3 gene, researchers can now swiftly determine if the virus is likely to jump from birds to humans. This development is especially significant given the severity of bird flu cases in the past, with 458 fatal human infections out of 878 reported cases between January 2003 and July 14, 2023, according to the World Health Organization.
Avian flu primarily circulates within poultry in farm or domestic settings, but it can spread to wild birds, including migratory species, posing a potential global threat. In the United Kingdom, 70 bird species have already tested positive for avian flu, highlighting the importance of understanding and preventing its transmission.
While the BTN3A3 gene may not yet show evidence of preventing the disease within bird species, it offers hope for mitigating the bird-to-human spread of the virus and identifying potential human-to-human transmission.
This breakthrough comes at a crucial time as the world remains vigilant for future pandemic events, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding the barriers that inhibit avian flu transmission to humans allows for better-targeted solutions and improved control measures to prevent spillovers, as emphasized by study lead professor Massimo Palmarini.
In conclusion, this groundbreaking discovery offers hope and valuable insights for enhancing global preparedness and response to potential pandemics, underscoring the importance of continued research and international collaboration in the field of virology. Stay informed by joining our free newsletter for updates and tips on navigating these critical public health challenges.