Big data is helping fight Influenza Viruses!

Big data is helping to fight flu epidemics which occur almost every year around the world, claiming plenty of lives. According to researchers from Zurich, big data is helping them to identify new molecules that are instrumental in the replication of the influenza viruses. They further claim that into coming years the data can also help in curbing and tackling dreaded viruses like swine flu, which caused global epidemic in 2009-2010.

According to Federal Health Office, each year in Switzerland, around 5K cases of hospitalization are reported due to seasonal flu. As most of the patients are elderly, some dreaded influenza ‘A’ viruses are resistant to existing flu drugs, which can result in patients not responding to medication and eventually leading to their death.

Medically speaking, influenza is triggered by infections with flu viruses which multiply heavily in the respiratory tract. For this, the viruses rely on host molecules. This has led to attempts to identify and block key host molecules to stop the virus replicating.

The international study, which involved researchers from the University Of Zurich, Germany and the United States – analyzed datasets from independent publications on IAV host molecules. These studies focus on the totality of the genes and proteins required for the virus and thus the whole process generates vast amounts of big data.

According to a statement from the University of Zurich last week the researchers discovered from the generated big data that 20 previously unknown host molecules that promote the growth of influenza ‘A’ viruses.

The data study revealed that a host protein named UBR4, helps the viruses in transporting vital proteins to the cell membrane and construct new particles. This takes place as follows:

  • The influenza ‘A’ virus invades the host cell.
  • The viral components are then carried to the cell surface, where they form new viruses.
  • As a result, as many as 20,000 new influenza viruses can develop from one single infected host cell.

All this research revealed that blocking UBR4 inhibits the production of new virus particles in infected cells. Therefore it clearly provides evidence that blocking host molecules is feasible and can prove as a therapeutic strategy for the treatment of influenza.


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