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Saturday, January 14th 2006

From The Lecture Halls To The Front Page

H5? N1?

Its semantic but thanks to actually opening my microbiology syllabus and going to lecture I now know what they’re describing when they talk of Avian Flu as H5N1.

Orthomyxoviruses have two really important surface proteins involved with the viruses ability to enter and exit the cell: Hemagglutinin (H) and Neuraminidase (N).

The 5 and the 1 describe the specific proteins that appear on the Avian Flu. But these protein types are not specific to a strain, for instance the flu vaccine put out every year inoculates for three flu strains but, even though the specific viruses you’re vaccinated against change year to year, it remains constant that one of the strains in the vaccine is always H1N1 and one is always H3N2.

Tamiflu is actually a neuraminidase inhibitor
. There are other antivirals that target influenza proteins, including hemagglutinin, and another protein which helps the virus exit the endosome once it is inside the cell. I’m not in pharmacology, and even if I was I might not be able to say, so I’m unsure why the neuraminidase inhibitor is the only one that seems to have any legitimate effect on H5N1.