Two human flu viruses disappear after COVID-19 pandemic

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Two human flu viruses disappear after COVID-19 pandemic

Two human flu viruses disappear after COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has led to the extinction of several human influenza viruses, scientists said. During this period, the incidence of influenza fell to historic lows, according to STAT .

Experts attribute this fact to wearing masks and other precautions. The study showed that two influenza viruses never appeared during the year – no cases of infection with them were registered in any country in the world.

Two families of viruses are known to cause seasonal influenza: influenza A and influenza B. Influenza A viruses are divided into “subtypes” based on two proteins on their surface known as hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N).

Currently, H1N1 and H3N2 circulate in humans, and each of these subtypes is further broken down into subspecies. Type B viruses have no subtypes or subspecies, but fall into two lineages known as B / Yamagata and B / Victoria.

The researchers found the disappearance of the H3N2 subtype (not identified since March 2020) and the B / Yamagata lineage. Scientists admit that they disappeared forever, but theoretically in the future they can return.

New data will help develop more effective influenza vaccines. In preparation, experts analyze which strains are circulating in the world and predict which ones may be most common in a given season.

H3N2 viruses are a particularly diverse group, and their subtypes have become more genetically diverse every year before the COVID-19 pandemic. He gave epidemiologists a lot of problems.

“The decline in diversity for this subtype would be great,” said Richard Webby, director of the World Health Organization's Center for the Study of the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.

The sharp drop in incidence “will definitely change something” in terms of virus diversity, experts say. But predicting the future development of events is very difficult, since the pandemic has become an unprecedented event in recent history.

Scientists have previously investigated the Spanish flu virus. At the beginning of the twentieth century, it led to the deaths of tens of millions of people.

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