Viruses mu­tate, emerge, re-emerge

Down to Earth - - HEALTH -

IN 2015, World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) pub­lished a list of top emerg­ing pathogens likely to cause severe out­breaks in the near fu­ture. Other than chikun­gunya, the list of pathogens in­cludes Zika, Crimean-Congo haemo­er­rhagic fever, filovirus dis­eases such as Ebola, coron­aviruses like MERS Co-V and SARS, Lassa Fever, Ni­pah and Rift Val­ley Fever.

In re­cent years, there is ev­i­dence that mu­ta­tions have be­come more com­mon. In the case of Ebola, the virus that caused the 2014 out­break was dif­fer­ent from those that caused out­breaks ear­lier. It had ac­cu­mu­lated more than 395 mu­ta­tions be­tween 2014 and 2016, when the re­searchers col­lected the last sam­ples. In 2003, re­searchers iden­ti­fied eight mu­ta­tions in dengue virus type 4. Chikun­gunya, which was largely con­fined to devel­op­ing coun­tries in Africa and Asia be­fore 2004, reached de­vel­oped na­tions, like France, due to a sin­gle amino acid change in the en­ve­lope gly­co­pro­tein.

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