MIT warns new bird flu strains not far from becoming pandemics. Image via NewsyScience.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found there isn’t much stopping the latest strains of the H5N1 and H7N9 flu viruses — also known as the “bird flu” — from being communicable from person to person.

MIT News reported on Thursday that new studies showed the viruses could become “pandemic flus” within just a few mutations — all it would take would be a change in one or two amino-acids.

“There are multiple different ways that this can happen,” lead author Ram Sasisekharan told the publication. Sasisekharan’s studies were published in the journal Cell on Thursday.


At least 132 people around the world have been infected by the H7N9 virus in 2013, most of them in China. Doctors in Shanghai reported that at least three patients encountered a strain that showed resistance to treatment via medication.

“The advent of H7N9 in early 2013 is of concern for a number of reasons,” Sasisekharan wrote in his team’s report, citing “its’ capability to infect humans, the lack of clarity in the etiology of infection, and because the human population does not have pre-existing immunity to the H7 subtype.”

Watch NewsyScience’s report on the unease surrounding the “bird flu,” posted online on Friday, below.