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Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. 1997 Jul-Aug;110(7-8):241-6.

[Influenza, a special form of zoonosis].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Institut für Virologie, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen.


Findings based on molecular genetics and phylogeny indicate that avian species represent an important reservoir for influenza viruses and that virus strains of man and different mammals originated from avian influenza virus ancestors. In contrast to infectious agents causing classical zoonoses, influenza viruses have to alter their genetic make up in order to change their host range. The special, segmented structure of the viral RNA allows an exchange of gene(s) between two different influenza viruses (reassortment) resulting in viruses with different combinations of genome segments and thereby creating new biological properties. Under the selective pressure of the new host the most adapted virus variants will succeed which arose from a genetically heterogeneous virus population with additional mutations. In particular mutations of the genes encoding the polymerase complex (mutator mutations) would be advantageous for rapid adaptation in a hostile environment. The generation of influenza viruses capable of overcoming the species barrier is a rare event since only virus variants will succeed which are genetically stable and transmissible and which replicate efficiently in the new host. It is considered likely that pigs act as intermediate hosts for adaptation of avian viruses to man.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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