Posted on
Fiona Shan | October 31, 2022

Viruses cause various diseases, often affecting people’s everyday lives. However, what would happen if you were infected by not one, but two viruses at once? A recent study shows how Influenza A virus (IAV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can fuse together to form an infectious new hybrid.

Why study IAV and RSV together?

IAV and RSV are both common respiratory viruses. IAV infection often causes a cough and fever, while RSV infection often results in inflammation in the respiratory tracks. Because infections involving both of these viruses peak during the fall and winter flu seasons, co-infection may occur, leading to more severe symptoms such as pneumonia.

What has been discovered?

The researchers infected human lung cells with both IAV and RSV, then used microscopes with ultra-high resolutions to observe any changes in the viruses and cell membranes. When looking at the reproduced viruses under powerful microscopes, the researchers observed features resembling both IAV and RSV.  Further experiments confirmed that viral particles derived from IAV and RSV had formed a hybrid virus, which can infect healthy lung cells.

Why is the finding important?

This study marks the first time that scientists have observed a hybrid virus. It is unknown whether virus hybrids are common for other, more deadly, viruses. As the pathology of the IAV-RSV hybrid virus remains unknown, future research will likely start from here, possibly opening up a whole new field of discovery.

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