Friday, January 9, 2009

When Flu Beasties Mutate

Wow, that crazy evolution-by-natural-selection stuff actually works in real time, notwithstanding anyone's elevated sense of cosmic importance:

Last winter, about 11 percent of the throat swabs from patients with the most common type of flu that were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for genetic typing showed a Tamiflu-resistant strain. This season, 99 percent do.

“It’s quite shocking,” said Dr. Kent A. Sepkowitz, director of infection control at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “We’ve never lost an antimicrobial this fast. It blew me away.”

The single mutation that creates Tamiflu resistance appears to be spontaneous, and not a reaction to overuse of the drug. It may have occurred in Asia, and it was widespread in Europe last year.
Hold the phone. Does this mean to say a random mutation in the genome of a species of flu beasty has favorably adapted it to some environments -- in this case, the environment of human hosts? This would imply something that creationist hacks have a very hard time imagining -- that life on earth rudely refuses to be bound by the imagination of creationist hacks:
The mutation conferring resistance to Tamiflu, known in the shorthand of genetics as H274Y on the N gene, was actually, Dr. Niman said, “just a passenger, totally unrelated to Tamiflu usage, but hitchhiking on another change.”

The other mutation, he said, known as A193T on the H gene, made the virus better at infecting people.
So the evidence shows. Shhh. The jury on evolution is still out in Oklahoma.


Domestically Challenged said...

Holy schiznit! That is not good!

UNRR said...

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 1/10/2009, at The Unreligious Right

Dale said...

DC, no it's not good. And did you catch the mention of Bird Flu?

UNRR, thanks for that.