Public release date: 27-Nov-2006
Contact: Scott Borgelt, Bowling Green State University

“We’ve found viral RNA in the ice in Siberia, and it’s along the major flight paths of migrating waterfowl,” whose pathways take them to North America, Asia and Australia, and interconnect with other migratory paths to Europe and Africa, explains Rogers.

Viruses, he says, can be preserved in ice over long periods of time, then released decades later when humans may no longer be immune to them. For instance, survivors of the worldwide flu pandemic of 1918 had immunity to the responsible strain—called H1N1—but that immunity has died with them, meaning a recurrence “could take hold as an epidemic.”

H1, the first of 16 versions of the protein heamagglutinin, is what Rogers and his Russian and Israeli colleagues sought in their research, which will be published in the December issue of the Journal of Virology. The BGSU professor and biology department chair believes it to be the first time anyone has found, and maybe even looked for, the viral RNA in ice.

…World Health Organization annually considers what flu strains are emerging in hopes of tailoring vaccines accordingly. “Sometimes they’re wrong,” he says. “We thought that by looking at what’s melting and what birds are picking up,” better guesses for the next year might be possible.

The researchers are looking to expand their examination to Canadian and Alaskan lakes, along with those in Greenland, Antarctica and Siberia that they’ve already tested. In the study being reported in the virology journal, three lakes in northeast Siberia were sampled in 2001-02, with the virus found in the one that had attracted the most geese, Rogers notes…

The H1 that he and his collaborators have found is closest to a strain that circulated from 1933-38 and again in the ‘60s…

Also Can flu viruses survive winter in frozen lakes? 29 November 2006, news service, Catherine Brahic”