Why do some people get the flu so bad they must be hospitalized and others just have a case of a mild flu? Do you think it is plain luck or something in our bodies that reacts differently to the flu virus?
Researchers have recently found a human flu gene that influences how we respond to influenza infection. People who carry a particular variant of a gene called IFITM3 are significantly more likely to be hospitalized when they fall ill with influenza than those who carry other variants of the flu gene.The research was led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
The IFITM3 gene is an important protein that protects cells against virus infection and is thought to play a major role in the immune system’s response against such viruses as H1N1, commonly known as ‘swine flu’. When the protein is present in large quantities, the spread of the virus in lungs is hindered, but if the protein is defective or absent, the virus can spread more easily, causing severe flu disease.
According to researchers the data reveal that the action of a single antiviral protein, IFITM3, can profoundly alter the course of the flu and potentially other viruses in both humans and mice. They do need to study the mechanisms of the gene variant more closely. This recent discovery points to a piece of the explanation of why some people die from the flu and others only get a mild version: Genetic variations affect the way in which different people respond to infections.
This finding could greatly help out in the case of a pandemic that is predicted to come some time in the future by the World Heath Organization. They say it is a matter of time for a pandemic to once again hit. This research could put us one step closer to fighting the impending pandemic.