Researchers discover gene that explains why the flu is worse for some people than it is for others
So there’s a certain genre of movies in which a virus strikes a population. A large percentage of the population is quickly infected, people come back from the dead, chaos and looting ensue, etc. Usually though, when it looks like all hope is gone, the scraggly group of survivors discovers one of them is immune – they have some gene that keeps them from being infected by the disease.
Well, real life is exactly like zombie movies.
Ok, maybe not exactly.
There is a point to this.
Researchers have recently discovered a gene that makes a difference in how influenza manifests in different people. The gene in question is called IFITM3 and when it functions normally, a person is usually able to fight off the flu infection better.
When the gene is malformed (or in the case of laboratory rats, removed), the individual has a much harder time dealing with the infection, and has more severe symptoms as a result. This study has resulted in a new group of at-risk individuals who should make it a priority to get the flu shot – along with pregnant women, the elderly, and young children.
Professor Paul Kellam of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute commented “Our research is important for people who have this variant as we predict their immune defences could be weakened to some virus infections…Ultimately as we learn more about the genetics of susceptibility to viruses, then people can take informed precautions, such as vaccination to prevent infection.”