Scientists may shortly be able to predict the flu

Posted Feb 28, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Scientists have developed a formula that can predict the evolution of the seasonal flu for the next year. This will allow health providers to prepare and the public to be aware of the most serious instances of flu.
Father and son in Mexico City
During the flue epidemic people wear mask to protect themselves from the flu
Donald Appel
The basis of the model is how the common flu virus — H3N2 — has mutated and changed throughout the years since 1968. Based on this, the researchers have created a mathematical model that accurately predicts how the virus will change in the future. Given that the flu is hitting young and middle aged people in the U.S. particularly hard this season, the announcement of the model could prove very timely.
For the model, Time magazine reports that the researchers examined viruses circulating in a given season and many people those viruses infected. The research found that some of the viruses’ adaptive mutations were shown to increase the virus’ life and growth, whereas others led to a decrease in virulence.
The model was weighted so that mutations that were likely to make the virus more serious were given a higher placement in the formula. When researchers compared their estimates to various years, they found their formula to be highly accurate. predicted the rise of the correct lineage in 93 percent of cases.
It is hoped that the model will become an effective tool for predicting which types of flu viruses will be more serious and where it is likely to occur.
The research was carried out by the Columbia University and the University of Cologne study has been published in the journal Nature. The paper is titled “A predictive fitness model for influenza.”
In a related study, Digital Journal has reported that another team of scientists are developing a model for tracking bird flu.