Research: Common influenza viruses and RSV can combine to form a hybrid virus

Photo PAP / EPA / GIUSEPPE LAMI (Image caption)

“This is a fascinating finding of great clinical significance: Two common viruses – influenza and RSV, can combine to form a hybrid virus” – says Dr. Bowie Grzesewski, citing research published in Nature Microbiology. Especially dangerous, as the expert notes, is that such a virus “has the ability to bypass the immune system.”

An expert specialist with the Supreme Medical Council on Epidemic Threats and Head of the Infection Prevention Institute notes on Twitter that such a hybrid virus has the ability to bypass the immune system and infect lung cells, which could lead to a more severe course of the disease.

The discovery was made by virologists from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, as reported in the latest issue of Nature Microbiology. They stress that when combined with RSV, the influenza A virus used in the experiment shows the ability to escape neutralizing antibodies. At least this was the case during observation under laboratory conditions.

Respiratory infections with more than one virus are very common – and it is unclear what the possible consequences are. According to the study authors, this joint infection occurs in 10-30 percent. Cases of this type of viral infection are more common in children. The disease may then be more severe, but this is not always the case with the results of clinical observations.

“Influenza virus – due to fusion with RSV – may become more dangerous”

One of the study’s authors, Pablo Murcia of the University of Glasgow’s Center for Virus Research, admitted in a press release that it was surprising how cells form virus particles, in this case two different pathogens. The influenza A virus tested was able to bypass the antibodies that target it using proteins obtained from the RSV virus, which usually infects young children up to the age of five.

“The influenza virus used the second virus particles like a Trojan horse” – says Pablo Murcia. He added that such a relationship was not observed in the case of RSV – antibodies against it, although fusion, effectively inhibited it. It follows that respiratory syncytial virus cannot use influenza virus glycoproteins to infect lung cells.

Stephen Griffin, a virologist at the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the study, told the Guardian that the flu virus could become more dangerous thanks to fusion with RSV. “RSV penetrates the lungs more deeply than seasonal influenza virus, if this is also the case with this infection, influenza may be more severe” – pointed out.

Such a hybrid infection, influenza virus and RSV virus, has not yet been observed in patients. “So we need to determine if hybrid viruses can arise in co-infected patients and what combinations of viruses can lead to the formation of hybrid viruses,” Pablo Murcia says. (PAP)

Author: Zbigniew Wojtasiński


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