Avian flu: Indians should examine their genomics, says expert

An acclaimed American virology scientist said here on Tuesday that India should look into the genes of its people to see why various strains of avian influenza virus are not affecting them.

PTI| Last Updated: Nov 17, 2015, 20:03 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: An acclaimed American virology scientist said here on Tuesday that India should look into the genes of its people to see why various strains of avian influenza virus are not affecting them.

Several types of avian flu viruses are not creating concern in India as they are in Eurasian countries and North America, Dr Robert G Webster, a World Health Organisation (WHO) expert, said here today.

Dr Webster was delivering the Foundation Day lecture of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, hosted by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) here, on the topic 'Pandemic and Avian Influenza: the Need for Surveillance in India', a release said.

"When analysing the Genomics of Indians, we may find some special characteristics resisting the disease," Webster, also Professor at Division of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, USA, said.

"But that aspect cannot be interpreted as Indians are not being susceptible to bird flu viruses because these viruses are constantly mating and re assorting to create newer strains. Some of these viruses may attain the capability for a human-to-human infection which can be lethal," explained the virologist.

Other than H1N1, highly pathogenic subtypes like H5N1 and H7N9 can spread across the borders since in neighbouring China new viruses and avian flu are constantly evolving, which creates a major concern. Wild birds are crossing the Himalayas to spread the flu in India like the H5N1 attack, he said.

The expert also argued for a universal human vaccination against avian flu as new waves of the disease might occur at any time, the release added.