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Dom Post: Scientists prove humans can have two flus at once

Posted in In the News on September 16th, 2010.

Kate Newton writes in the Dominion Post about findings in a New Zealand-based study that show that two different flu viruses can infect a person at the same time.

Such co-infection, though rare, has raised concerns that it could lead to new, more dangerous forms of flu, for example passing drug resistance from one flu strain to another.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“”When [co-infection] happens, influenza viruses are able to swap genes,” lead author and ESR researcher Matthew Peacey said. “The worry here is this event could give rise to a more virulent influenza strain, such as a pandemic strain that is resistant to Tamiflu, and so needs to be monitored closely.”

“None of the 11 people with co-infections – or two others who researchers believe also contracted both strains – were severely ill or admitted to hospital. The co-infections were discovered almost by accident, so researchers had been unable to test whether gene-swapping had occurred, Dr Peacey said. It “more than certainly” had, however.

“Gene-swapping would not necessarily result in a more harmful flu strain forming, but a risk still existed, the researchers concluded.”

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