RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY RUSSELL KIGHTLEY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
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Avian and human flu viruses combining. Computer artwork of different strains (shown by different colours) of influenza virus leaving a cell. Viruses infect a host cell and use its machinery to replicate their genome. If two different strains of virus infect the cell at the same time, the two genomes may be mixed and repackaged to create new strains. If an avian (bird) virus and a human virus are mixed in this way it could lead to the avian virus being able to spread from human to human. This would introduce a new strain into the population that there was no resistance to, and so could cause a deadly pandemic.
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