Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Virus

In 2010, the Visual Science company developed this detailed model of the influenza A (H1N1) virus. (Note that only the viral envelope is visible in this visualization; the nucleocapsid core is hidden inside.) The shape of the virion, which ranges from 80 to 170 nm in diameter, and the density of the surface proteins were modeled according to cryo-electron microscopy data.1 The tertiary structure of the viral proteins—hemagglutinin (red), neuraminidase (large black), and M2-protein channels (small black)—were modeled using data from X-ray crystallography.

These proteins facilitate binding of the virus to host cell receptors, subsequent endosomal fusion and viral release from the cells.2 The … M2-protein channels … play a critical role in the early phase of infection leading to the uncoating and release of viral RNP.3

Individual atoms of phospholipid molecules (orange) comprising the membrane are also observable.

References: (1) A. Harris et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; (2) J. J. Skehel and D. C. Wiley, Annual Review of Biochemistry; (3) D. P. Nayak et al., Virus Research.

Image credit: the Visual Science company.

Why Men Suffer More Than Women

Why Men Suffer More Than Women

I’m in trouble before I start with that title aren’t I chaps?  You may have noticed – possibly with some relief – a short absence by yours truly for a few days. The reason is simple and straightforward. I had ‘man flu.’

Influenza can be Spanish flu or Hong Kong - although I think those two have been wiped out haven’t they? Anyway, influenza as opposed to a common heavy head cold.

Now ‘man flu’…

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According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the otherwise healthy, 50-year-old man was working outside on his property in mid-2014, when he sustained multiple tick bites, which led to an array of symptoms including fever, fatigue, rash, headaches, nausea and vomiting around two days after. After he was hospitalized, his white blood cell count dipped, his lungs and kidney started failing, and by day 11, suffered a heart attack, and died.

Scientists were able to isolate a new virus from a blood sample collected from the patient nine days after he fell ill, and attributed it to theThogotovirus genus in the virus family Orthomyxoviridae. This family contains six genera - Influenza virus A, Influenza virus B, Influenza virus C, Isavirus, Thogotovirus and Quaranjavirus. 

The researchers report that right now, there is no treatment for the disease, no vaccine, and no lab tests to identify it. So those in the US at a high risk of tick bitesare advised to wear insect repellents and long-sleeved shirts and pants when outdoors, and to avoid thickly wooded areas as much as possible.