Scientists now have an idea of just how the H1N1 virus may be so deadly, and what makes it different from earlier viruses from the same family. Hint: It's where it goes inside your body that counts.
According to New Scientist, two separate teams of scientists in the Netherlands and the US have discovered through testing on animals that the pandemic strain of the virus differs from other seasonal strains in the way that it binds with its victims:
Both groups found that the seasonal virus binds almost exclusively to cells in the ferrets' noses. But, the pandemic H1N1 binds deeper, in the lung's trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. The pandemic virus also replicated more, and caused more damage, though none of the ferrets were severely ill... The US group found also found binding in the intestines, explaining the unusual nausea and vomiting seen in some cases of the pandemic flu. Both teams concluded that the virus could adapt further to humans, which might make it more severe.
So all we have to do to be protected from the pandemic is quickly evolve less-lung- and intenstine-centric ways of existing, right...? We'll get right on that.
Revealed: How pandemic swine flu kills [New Scientist]