Research NewsInfectious Disease

Sequence Offers Clues to Deadly Flu

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Science  16 Jan 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5349, pp. 324
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5349.324

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The Hong Kong "bird flu" that has killed four people, sickened more than a dozen, and prompted the mass slaughter of more than 1.5 million chickens in the last month is still perplexing to scientists. Researchers are trying to discover why this virus is so deadly and why, unlike most known avian viruses, it can infect human cells. Now, in a report on page 393, a team from the United States and Hong Kong provides the most careful look yet at the virus--a complete sequence of the genes that code for its surface proteins and partial sequences of the remaining genome. Although the sequence so far can't reveal all of the virus's biological tricks, it offers clues as to how the virus infects cells, and it lays the groundwork for understanding what makes the bird flu a killer.