Scientists identify gene behind our reaction to flu-type viruses

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SOME people may be at risk of a severe reaction to flu because they are not protected by a key gene, according to scientists at Edinburgh University.

Researchers have identified, for the first time, a human gene responsible for our susceptibility and response to flu and other viruses.

The gene – IFITM3 – produces a protein that protects cells against infections and is thought to be critical in the immune system’s response against viruses such as swine flu. The study found that patients who ended up in intensive care with potentially fatal complications after developing flu were much more likely to have a variant of this gene that did not protect against the virus.

The research was led by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, working in collaboration with scientists from The Roslin Institute at Edinburgh University and clinicians at NHS Lothian. It analysed DNA from patients treated during the 2009/10 swine flu pandemic.