Fresh insight into how viruses such as SARS and flu can jump from one species to another may help scientists predict the emergence of diseases in future. Researchers have shown that viruses are better able to infect species that are closely related to their typical target species than species that are distantly related.
Their results suggest that when diseases make the leap to a distant species -- such as bird flu infecting humans -- they may then spread easily in species closely related to the new victim, regardless of how closely related these are to the original target species.
Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge looked at how relationships between species might determine the spread of an important group of emerging diseases, known as RNA viruses. This group of diseases includes HIV, SARS and flu.