RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Influenza virus gene exchange. Computer artwork of the combination of two subtypes of influenza virus to form a new strain. Influenza belongs to the orthomyxovirus class of RNA (ribonucleic acid) viruses. Viruses use the machinery of a host cell (bottom right) to replicate their genomes. If a cell is infected with two influenza strains (purple genome & orange genome) simultaneously, the viral RNA may be mixed and repackaged to form a new strain (purple & orange genome at centre left). This could happen between bird (avian) flu and a human strain of the virus. The resulting strain may be transmissible from human to human and spread rapidly though the population.
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