SCIENTISTS from Edinburgh University have helped to discover a new gene in the influenza virus that controls how the body responds to infection.
Although this influence is exerted by the virus, surprisingly it appears to reduce the impact of the infection.
When the virus gene – called PA-X – was active, researchers discovered that mice infected with flu subsequently recovered.
When it did not work properly, the immune system was found to overreact. This made the infection worse and failed to destroy the virus quicker.
The findings will help scientists better understand how flu can cause severe infections, as well as informing studies into new treatments.
Professor Paul Digard, of the Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University, said: “Just finding this gene in the first place is important, but the find is even more significant because of the role it seems to play in the body’s response to flu.”