Midlothian scientists in flu discovery

Midlothian scientists have been at the forefront of research into why some people can experience a severe reaction to flu.

For the first time, researchers at the Roslin Institute, working alongside colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and clinicians at NHS Lothian, have identified a human gene responsible for our response to flu and other viruses.

The gene – IFITM3 – produces a protein that protects cells against infections, and is thought to be critical in the immune system’s response to viruses such as swine flu.

The study analysed DNA from patients treated in the Scottish Intensive Care Units during the 2009/10 swine flu pandemic.

With the backing of families, blood samples were taken from patients who had previously been fit and healthy, but had now developed life-threatening lung complications from the flu virus. The scientists found that 5.3 per cent of patients in intensive care with flu had a variant of IFITM3.

This was a significantly higher proportion of the gene variant found in the general population, which was 0.3 per cent.

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