virus mutation rate monitor - (Mar/18/2006 )
Hi, just a quick question. Are there any methods to quantify the evolution of viruses or other infectious diseases, such as HIV and flu? I mean every season there are new virus strains developed, but how many are they, what is the propotion of the new strains in the whole virus species population? And the immunity of a specified disease is also geneticly related. Any current research and statistic reports can show some detials of these problems?
yes virus mutation rate is extensively studied as the clinical and public health implications are so important (i.e. new strains, drug resistance, choice of vaccine etc.). Organisations such as the CDC in the USA and the Health Protection Agency in the UK carry out many studies of this nature. These studies almost always perform comparative analysis of viral DNA sequences isolated from patients (or from online sequnce databases), evolutionary relationships can then be inferred by some form of bioinformatic analysis.
Studies either focus on evolution within the human population (and particular subsets) and especially in the case of RNA viruses (which have a higher mutation rate) studies can focus on intra-patient virus evolution as the virus can mutate to form a 'quasispecies' within the patient.
The field you are referring to in your question can be found in the literature (e.g. pubmed) if you do a search for 'molecular eidemiology', 'phylogenetics' or 'molecular evolution' in conjunction with the virus you are interested in. I cannot give you specifics about each virus as this varies from virus to virus, though there will be plenty of reviews on pubmed i am sure.