Edinburgh and Cambridge scientists make virus discovery

Man blowing his nose The scientists wanted to know how viruses such as bird flu infect humans

Related Stories

Scientists have gained new knowledge into how viruses such as flu and HIV jump between species.

The research, by Edinburgh and Cambridge universities, should help predict the appearance of new diseases.

The scientists wanted to understand how viruses such as bird flu infect distant species like humans.

They found they were better able to infect species closely related to their typical target species than species that were distantly related.

However, the research also suggested that when diseases make a big leap they may then spread easily in species closely related to the new victim, regardless of how closely related these are to the original target species.

Dr Ben Longdon, of Edinburgh University's school of biological sciences, who led the study, said: "Emerging diseases such as Sars, HIV and some types of flu have all got into humans from other species.

"Understanding how diseases jump between different species is essential if we want to predict the appearance of new diseases in the future."

More susceptible

By infecting more than 50 species of flies with three different viruses, the researchers showed that species closely related to a virus's usual target species were more susceptible than distantly related flies.

They also showed that groups of flies that were closely related were similarly susceptible to the same viruses.

The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Natural Environment Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the Royal Society, was published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC Edinburgh, Fife and East



9 °C 7 °C


Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.