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Prone to flu? Blame it on your genes

Last updated: 26 August, 2011
London, Aug 26, (PTI): 20:39 IST

Contracting flu every time even after taking all precautionary measures? Just blame it on your genes, scientists say. A study by British volunteers found that some people are genetically predisposed to stave off the illness, while others are struck down year after year.

However, the good news for the unlucky ones is that the discovery could form the basis of a universal treatment, the researchers said.

Alfred Hero, the University of Michigan academic who led the research, said: “We looked at over 22,000 genes in 267 blood samples. No study of this magnitude has ever been done on human immune response”.

“We can start to tease out the biological conditions that might make one more resistant to getting sick. We will be testing it on different strains of flu, and it may not just be flu, it may be the same for other viruses including the common cold,” Hero was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.

For their study, the researchers inoculated 17 healthy people with the flu virus and monitored their progress for five days. Of the samples, nine became ill and the rest showed no symptoms at all.

Using technology usually employed in satellite imaging, they examined the genes in the subjects’ blood samples every eight hours. Those who became sick developed an acute inflammation on certain genes 36 hours before the symptoms set in.

This “genetic signature” was most marked in those who were suffering the worst, the researchers said. Meanwhile, those who remained fine were found to have activated a totally different genetic signature.

The scientists interpreted this signature as an “anti-stress response” that showed their bodies were actively fighting off the virus.

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