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Beware of Stories About "New" Swine Flu Strain

A flurry of news reports today claim that Brazilian researchers have found a "new" strain of the novel H1N1 virus, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this is inaccurate.

Brazilian researchers from the Adolfo Lutz Bacteriological Institute in São Paulo reported in a release today that they had found an H1N1 virus in a Brazilian man that differed from a California isolate in the hemagglutinin (HA) gene, which codes for a protein that plays a major role in the immune response against the virus. The release does not claim that the strain is “new,” and it has only three amino acid differences in HA from the California isolate. But so many media reports came out making this assertion that CDC issued a statement in its daily briefing. “The Brazil virus is actually identical to the consensus sequence of all viruses sequenced worldwide,” says the statement. “The media apparently misinterpreted the three amino acid difference as evidence of a ‘new’ strain. This is not correct.”