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Help for project

Yves Konigshofer BG6S000 at MUSICB.MCGILL.CA
Sun Jan 21 22:53:51 EST 1996

In article <4do5gi$1ab at lantana.singnet.com.sg> CINDY <cinpang at singnet.com.sg> writes:
>I'm a high school student and wish to do a project on finding
>the effective cures for flu. I read up that flu is a virus. So,
>is there any way to cultivate the virus and later use the
>various cure to see if the virus will be removed? Can I do
>it the same way of doing a bacteria culture on an agar plate??
>Any suggestions are welcomed. By the way, I will also
>appreciate it if someone can tell me how to improve and modify
>this project to make it more interesting.

The virus that you are most likely looking for is called the influenza A
virus.  It is a  multi-segmented negative RNA virus (8 strands) and
each strand encodes one or more proteins.  There are two major surface
proteins, neuraminidase and hemagglutinin, of which there are numerous
variants.  The fact that there are numerous variants of each is why
a single flu-shot will not protect you from the next year's flu strain.
The influenza virus is also found in animals with roughly the same
surface proteins (encoded on two different RNA stands) and the
emergence of new influenza epidemics can result when these RNA strands
mix with the RNA stands required for successful human infection.  This
mixing (reassortment) can occur when animals and humans are in close
contact and a cell becomes infected by two different influenza viruses.
The past few influenza epi/pandemics seem to have originated from east
asia and one of my professors has a funny idea (which I will not go
into) as to why (though it does sound reasonable).
As to a cure, well, generally the immune system is capable of fighting
the virus and removing it after a week or two.  There have, however,
been a few really bad pandemics with a high mortality (I believe there
was a really bad outbreak during World War 1).
The influenza virus, because it has a negative RNA genome must also
encode its own polymerase for making mRNA (encoded by PB1, PB2, and PA).
Since this polymerase does not have 100% accuracy, it is possible for
mutations to appear in the genome.  This polymerase is more accurate
than reverse transcriptase so HIV-like mutation rates are not observed.
The mutations that do occur can, however, lead to new (and possibly bad)
outbreaks of the flu.

>P.s.: Is there anything called anti viral drugs? If yes, can
>you briefly enlighten me on how they work?

There are two related drugs that can be used against influenza.  These
are amantadine and rimantadine.  I do, however, not know how they work.
There is also a so-called cold-adapted strain which is also much less
virulent than wild-type influenza.  This strain can be used to make
a live vaccine by replacing the neuraminidase and hemagglutinin with
those of the influenza virus that is currently spreading through the
population.  That way, the immune system fights a weakened virus before
it becomes exposed to the virulent virus.  Remeber, the flu-shots and
the cold-adapted vaccine must be given a few weeks prior to infection
with the wild-type virus to be effective.  The two previously mentioned
drugs can be given during infection but should only be given in really
bad cases (there are strains that are resistant to at least one of

Anyway, for more info, just look under "influenza" in most virology
books... and good luck (I had to write a paper related to the influenza
virus last semester)

>/ves /<onigshofer
Just another student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology
at the University of McGill... waaay the h*ll up there in Canada

bg6s at musicb.mcgill.ca (I did not choose that name)
ykonig at po-box.mcgill.ca

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