swine flu

Nick's post on Amantadine resistance in swine flu was so interesting, I had to look at the protein structures myself.

I couldn't find any structures with the S31N mutation that Nick discussed, but I did find some structures with the M2 protein and Amantadine. Not only are these structures beautiful, but you can look at them and see how the protein works and how the drug prevents the protein from functioning.

As Nick mentions, the M2 protein from influenza makes a ... Read more

No more delays! BLAST away!

Time to blast. Let's see what it means for sequences to be similar. 

First, we'll plan our experiment.  When I think about digital biology experiments, I organize the steps in the following way: 

           A.  Defining the question

B.  Making the data sets

           C.  Analyzing the data sets

D.  Interpreting the results

I'm going intersperse my results with a few instructions so you can ... Read more

We'll have a blast, I promise! But there's one little thing we need to discuss first...

I want to explain why I'm going to use nucleotide sequences for the blast search. (I used protein the other day). It's not just because someone told me too, there is a solid rational reason for this.

The reason is the redundancy in the genetic code.

Okay, that probably didn't make any sense to those of you who didn't already know the answer. Here it is. ... Read more

Last night, the phone rang at 9:22 pm. I quickly glanced at the caller ID. Hmmm. Why is the Seattle School district calling us at this time of night?

Apparently the swine flu has come to Seattle and the school district thought we should know.

Those messages are helpful if you're a parent, but they don't tell much about the rest of the world.

Health Map is a really wonderful, user-friendly, resource for following the epidemic.

... Read more

I'm teaching an on-line bioinformatics course this semester for Austin Community College. They are in Texas of course, but I am in Seattle. This presents a few interesting challenges and some minor moments of amusement.

Today, the school sent all the faculty emails telling us to stay home if we're sick.

Got it. If I think I have flu, I will not fly to Texas.

Instead, I'll stay home and watch videos on coughing without contaminating others.

Watch "Why don't we do it in our sleeves?" and find out how you rank on the safe coughing scale.

... Read more

What tells us that this new form of H1N1 is swine flu and not regular old human flu or avian flu?

If we had a lab, we might use antibodies, but when you're a digital biologist, you use a computer.

Activity 4. Picking influenza sequences and comparing them with phylogenetic trees

We can get the genome sequences, piece by piece, as I described in earlier, but the NCBI has other tools that are useful, too.

The Influenza Virus Resource will let us pick sequences, align them, and make trees so we can quickly compare the sequences to each ... Read more

This afternoon, I was working on educational activities and suddenly realized that the H1N1 strain that caused the California outbreak might be the same strain that caused an outbreak in 2007 at an Ohio country fair.

UPDATE: I'm not so certain anymore that the strains are the same. I'm doing some work with nucleic acid sequences to look further at similarity.

Here's the data.

Once I realized that the genome sequences from the H1N1 swine flu were in the NCBI's virus genome resources database, I had to take a look.

And, like eating ... Read more

I was pretty impressed to find the swine flu genome sequences, from the cases in California and Texas, already for viewing at the NCBI.

You can get them and work them, too. It's pretty easy. Tomorrow, we'll align sequences and make trees.

Activity 3: Getting the swine flu sequence data

1. Go to the NCBI, find the Influenza Virus Resource page and follow the link to:

04/27/2009: Newest swine influenza A (H1N1) sequences.

2. You'll see ... Read more

I'm a big of learning from data. There are many things we can learn about swine flu and other kinds of flu by using public databases.

In digital biology activity 1, we learned about the kinds of creatures that can get flu. Personally, I'm a little skeptical about the blowfly, but...

Now, you might wonder, what kinds of flu do these different creatures get? Are they all getting H1N1, or do they get different variations? What are H and N anyway?

We can discuss all of these, but for now, lets see what kinds of flu strains infect different kinds of creatures.

... Read more

Genome sequences from California and Texas isolates of the H1N1 swine flu are already available for exploration at the NCBI. Let's do a bit of digital biology and see what we can learn.

Activity 1. What kinds of animals get the flu?

For the past few years we've been worrying about avian (bird). Now, we're hearing about swine (pig) flu.

All of this news might you wonder just who gets the flu besides pigs, birds, and humans. We can find out by looking at the data.

Over the past few years, researchers have been sequencing ... Read more