City study leads to virus breakthrough

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A NEW study into how viruses such as SARS and flu can jump from one species to another may help scientists predict the emergence of diseases in future.

Researchers from Edinburgh University have shown that viruses are better able to infect species that are closely related to their typical target species than those which are distantly related.

Their results suggest that when diseases make the leap to a distant species – such as bird flu infecting humans – they may then spread easily in species closely related to the new victim, regardless of how closely related these are to the original target species.

Dr Ben Longdon, who led the study, said: “Understanding how diseases jump between different species is essential if we want to predict the appearance of new diseases.”