Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

Summary of the week

We summarize what we have been learning during this week. Influenza viruses are really interesting due to the modular nature of their genome.
Inquisitive horse
© 2017. Universidad Complutense de Madrid

This week we have learned about viruses which have a clear airborne transmission.

There are many examples of these types of viruses, some very virulent and which may even produce death in a large percentage of infected humans. We have chosen influenza viruses to illustrate airborne viruses, not because they are highly virulent, but because they are very transmissible and because influenza is a zoonosis. Influenza viruses have another important characteristic, relevant for the purpose of this course: they are highly variable. They may escape from the surveillance of the immune system by gradually mutating their envelope proteins (antigenic drift, which determines seasonal variations which end up as epidemics). Also, due to the fragmented nature of their genome, when two different viruses infect the same cell, genomic fragments may get mixed and turn into a completely different virus against which the population is not immunologically protected (antigenic shift, which may end up as a pandemic).

In all this, wild birds (especially migratory birds) play a key role as transporters of the infection from one place to another. They may transmit the virus to domestic poultry, who in turn can pass it over to pigs. What is the importance of this? Pigs have receptors for both avian and human viruses, so they can act as mixing vessels for the development of pandemic viruses.

Have your say

What did you like about this week? What surprises did you encounter? Which questions were raised and remained unanswered? Please, take time to read the comments of the other learners and interact with at least two of them.

Before we proceed to the assessment, review any of the aspects that may be “murky” for you.

© 2017. Universidad Complutense de Madrid
This article is from the free online

Animal Viruses: Their Transmission and the Diseases They Produce

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education