Fri, 26 Aug 2011 07:16:48 GMT

Prone to flu? Blame it on your genes

London, Aug 26 (PTI) Contracting flu every time even after taking all precautionary measures? Just blame it on your genes, scientists say.

A study by on British volunteers found that some people are genetically predisposed to stave off the illness, while others are struck down year after year.

However, the good news for the unlucky ones is that the discovery could form the basis of a universal treatment, the researchers said.

Alfred Hero, the University of Michigan academic who led the research, said: "We looked at over 22,000 genes in 267 blood samples. No study of this magnitude has ever been done on human immune response".

"We can start to tease out the biological conditions that might make one more resistant to getting sick. We will be testing it on different strains of flu, and it may not just be flu, it may be the same for other viruses including the common cold," Hero was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

For their study, the researchers inoculated 17 healthy people with the flu virus and monitored their progress for five days. Of the sample, nine became ill and the rest showed no symptoms at all.

Using technology usually employed in satellite imaging, they examined the genes in the subjects'' blood samples every eight hours.

Those who became sick developed an acute inflammation on certain genes 36 hours before the symptoms set in. This "genetic signature" was most marked in those who were suffering the worst, the researchers said.

Meanwhile, those who remained fine were found to have activated a totally different genetic signature.

The scientists interpreted this signature as an "anti-stress response" that showed their bodies were actively fighting off the virus.

This discovery raises the possibility that experts could find a way to detect flu early, and take preventative action before the worst effects develop, the researchers said.

"This is very important science, really Star Trek stuff.
It has very big implications for many infectious diseases, not only flu," said Professor Peter Openshaw of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College in the UK.

"It could help with flu pandemics and even allow us to detect lethal infections such as the ebola virus at a very early stage," Professor Openshaw added.

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