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zondag 10 april 2011

Mutating viruses

Did you know that a nutritional deficiency can cause a virus to mutate to a more virulent form? That is the news from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) who are reporting that a human virus, normally harmless in laboratory mice, mutated into a heart-damaging pathogen when the animals were raised on a diet devoid of the essential element selenium. And, once mutated, the virus continued to damage hearts - even in mice that got ample selenium in their feed.

The importance of this is not limited to nutritionally-deprived populations, say researchers with the University of North Carolina and Agricultural Research Service of the government, who collaborated on the studies. In theory, one selenium-deficient person or animal could produce a new family of virus mutants that could cross species and spread worldwide, causing disease even in well nourished people.

The USDA is now officially on record that nutritional deficiencies cause viral mutations and they expect to find the same results with vitamin-E-deficient mice because both selenium and vitamin E are nutrients that serve as antioxidants in the body. This means that the government is recognizing that free radicals and oxidative stress affects the world of pathogens creating super bugs out of regular critters. They are even going as far as saying that this may help explain the many new strains of influenza virus arising in China, which has widespread selenium-deficient areas.


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