Influenza as a model system for studying the cross-species transfer and evolution of the SARS coronavirus
The influenza virus is perhaps the most intensely studied of human pathogens. Effective vaccines have been available for over fifty years, yet influenza continues to present a major threat to public health. Does this bode ill for the control of SARS should it return? This chapter relates several recent evolutionary studies that provide insight into the ability of influenza to infect humans repeatedly throughout their lives. It reviews some common misconceptions about influenza which, in retrospect, were not far-fetched but simply based on limited data. These lessons may be pertinent if we hope to come quickly to grips with emerging infections such as SARS or avian flu.
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