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Sneeze That Way, Please

People with a certain gene variant may be at greater risk of falling seriously ill with the flu, the Guardian reports.

It notes that while people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions are generally known to be at increased danger from getting the flu, there might also be people within the general population who, because of their genetics, are also at increased risk of contracting a serious case of the flu.

At the British Science Festival this week, Paul Kellam from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute said that about one in 400 people harbor an IFITM3 gene variant that could make them more susceptible to severe disease, the Guardian reports. A few years ago, Kellam and his colleagues noticed that people with a certain IFITM3 variant were more likely to be hospitalized with the 2009 swine flu virus than people with other variants. IFITM3 encodes a protein that typically helps fight off viral infection.

The Guardian adds that people with this variant could be prioritized to receive the yearly flu vaccine, and Kellam noted that uncovering a gene variant associated with susceptibility to severe flu could inform drug studies.

"By understanding genetic variants like this we can start to think about broad spectrum antivirals that hit a whole range of viruses, from flu to dengue and Ebola," Kellam said.