Most emerging infectious diseases in humans originate from animal reservoirs; to contain and eradicate these diseases we need to understand how and why some pathogens become capable of crossing host species barriers. Influenza virus illustrates the interaction of factors that limit the transmission and subsequent establishment of an infection in a novel host species. Influenza species barriers can be categorized into virus-host interactions occurring within individuals and host-host interactions, either within or between species, that affect transmission between individuals. Viral evolution can help surmount species barriers, principally by affecting virus-host interactions; however, evolving the capability for sustained transmission in a new host species represents a major adaptive challenge because the number of mutations required is often large.
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