A new study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) show that two avian influenza strains recently seen in human infections in Asia, do not have the ability to easily infect humans.

China-Taiwan map/Rintojiang
China-Taiwan map/Rintojiang

TSRI researchers have analyzed a key protein from two influenza strains that recently began causing sporadic infections among people in China and Taiwan.

The analyses suggest that the flu viruses, variants of subtypes H10N8 and H6N1, have not acquired changes that would allow them to infect people easily and cause a much-feared pandemic.

Yet the studies also highlight the versatility that bird flu viruses apparently have in attaching to host cells.

“These bird flu viruses seem able to bind to receptors on host cells in different ways and thus can probably mutate in different ways to jump to humans—so we shouldn’t be complacent about our ability to predict the viral changes required to get a pandemic,” said Ian A. Wilson, Hansen Professor of Structural Biology and chair of TSRI’s Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology.

Related: H5 Avian influenza rising in China

The new research, from Wilson’s laboratory and the laboratory of James C. Paulson, acting president and CEO of TSRI, is reported in two papers in the journal Cell Host & Microbe on March 11, 2015.

Read the entire TSRI press release HERE