Did a common flu strain disappear amid the pandemic? Scientists aim to find out

Scientists are exploring whether a common flu strain has gone extinct during the pandemic, though they don't expect to have concrete findings for at least a year, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 9.

Five takeaways:

1. Laboratories across the globe use genetic sequencing to track the presence of various flu strains and upload their findings to an international database. Since early 2020, no labs have reported flu infections caused by the influenza B Yamagata lineage. 

2. Yamagata evolves more slowly than other influenza B strains, which could make it more vulnerable to eradication, according to the Journal

3. Australian researchers are studying Yamagata's potential disappearance, as its extinction could change how drugmakers formulate annual flu shots. 

"If it's gone, it's a big deal," Dr. Marios Koutsakos, a research fellow at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, who is studying Yamagata, told the Journal. "But the world is a very big place. It could be somewhere where we're just not seeing it."

4. Scientists have cautioned about jumping to conclusions and said it could take at least another year to confirm whether Yamagata has gone extinct. 

5. Other flu strains have died out in the past, but it would be unusual for Yamagata to disappear without another strain emerging, scientists told the Journal

View the full article here.

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