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Why Young Are Most Affected by Swine Flu Revealed in Virus Structure

A team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute and other institutions has solved the structure of a key protein from the virus that caused last year's "swine flu" influenza epidemic. The structure reveals that the virus shares many features with influenza viruses common in the early 20th century, helping to explain why, in general, older individuals have been less severely affected by the recent outbreak than younger ones.

The team's findings were published in the March 25, 2010, issue of Science Express, an advance, online publication of selected research papers from the journal Science.

In the study, the team describes the structure of the hemagglutinin (the influenza virus envelope protein) from the H1N1 swine flu virus that triggered the pandemic in 2009 and is still circulating in the human population. The team then compared the swine flu hemagglutinin protein with a range of different human H1N1 flu viruses in the past century.
 
 

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