Global’s Update – 08/05/10

H1N1 flu virus used new biochemical trick to cause pandemic

A new study came out of the U.S. National Institute of Health Thursday which reveals that the recent pandemic-causing H1N1 flu virus used a new biochemical trick to spread efficiently in humans.

Typically, the presence of two amino acids — lysine and asparagines — in specific sites on a key avian protein are required for a flu virus to make the jump from an animal host and replicate efficiently in human cells. The H1N1 2009 virus lacked both of these amino acid building blocks, posing a puzzle for scientists. The new study found that the lysine amino acid resides in a completely different location on the protein and is responsible for the H1N1 virus’ ability to adapt to and co-opt human cells.

The new PLoS Pathogens report also includes critical data for the three-dimensional structure of the H1N1 protein known as PB2, which originated from an avian virus. According to Bart L. Staker of Emerald BioStructures, Inc., a member of the SSCGID, the structural data reveals changes in the surface shape of the avian virus protein in H1N1, which could, in turn, be responsible for thwarting factors in the human cell that would otherwise inhibit infection. University of Wisconsin-Madison

 Pakistan Flood Surge Moving South

Emergency crews are still trying to assist people in flood-ravaged northwestern Pakistan, while officials are warning people in the south to brace for floods. The floods have already killed an estimated 1,500 people over the past week, and as many as four million people have been affected by the floods, which tore through villages, swallowed homes and destroyed crops. Much of the damage was concentrated in the country’s northwest, which has not seen such devastating floods since 1929. Aid workers and government officials have struggled to deliver aid as water and mud devastated local infrastructure. Four U.S. army helicopters arrived in the area Thursday to help transport people who had been stranded by the floods. A U.S. Embassy spokesman told The Associated Press that 800 people were lifted out and relief goods distributed.  CBC

Russia continues frantic fight against perilous wildfires

Russian authorities and firefighters are continuing their fierce battle against rampant wildfires that have shrouded Moscow in choking smog and thrown nuclear facilities into danger. As the confirmed death toll rose to 50 in the deadliest outbreak of wildfires in nearly four decades, President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday cut short his traditional summer holiday in the southern resort of Sochi and returned to Moscow to supervise the fire-fighting efforts. Visibility stood at merely 300 meters in the early morning in central Moscow, as thick clouds of pungent smoke from nearby forests and bog engulfed the capital overnight and raised local pollution indicators to critical levels. Municipal authorities and health experts have urged local residents to take preventative measures, such as wearing face masks when going out. CBC

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