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Evolution of the Influenza A Virus: Some New Advances

Author(s): Raul Rabadan | Harlan Robins

Journal: Evolutionary Bioinformatics
ISSN 1176-9343

Volume: 3;
Start page: 299;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Keywords: Influenza | human | Influenza | avian Influenza | seasonal Influenza | pandemic Influenza | antigenic drift | antigenic shift | reassortment | Spanish flu

Influenza is an RNA virus that causes mild to severe respiratory symptoms in humans and other hosts. Every year approximately half a million people around the world die from seasonal Influenza. But this number is substantially larger in the case of pandemics, with the most dramatic instance being the 1918 “Spanish flu” that killed more than 50 million people worldwide. In the last few years, thousands of Influenza genomic sequences have become publicly available, including the 1918 pandemic strain and many isolates from non-human hosts. Using these data and developing adequate bioinformatic and statistical tools, some of the major questions surrounding Influenza evolution are becoming tractable. Are the mutations and reassortments random? What are the patterns behind the virus’s evolution? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a virus adapted to one host to infect a different host? Why is Influenza seasonal? In this review, we summarize some of the recent progress in understanding the evolution of the virus.
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