Document Type



Medicine and Health Sciences


Influenza viruses are genetically labile pathogens which avoid immune detection by constantly changing their coat proteins. Most human infections are caused by mildly pathogenic viruses which rarely cause life-threatening disease in healthy people, but some individuals with a weakened immune system can experience severe complications. Widespread infections with highly pathogenic strains of influenza virus are less common, but have the potential to cause enormous death tolls among healthy adults if infection rates reach pandemic proportions. Increased virulence has been attributed to a variety of factors, including enhanced susceptibility to co-infection with common strains of bacteria. The mechanisms that facilitate dual infection are a major focus of current research, as preventative measures are needed to avert future pandemics


Discov Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2015 Feb 2. Published in final edited form as: Discov Med. 2015 Jan; 19(102): 33–40. PMCID: PMC4313126 NIHMSID: NIHMS657118