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UMaine Research Finds Link Between Flu Virus And Muscle Damage

With flu season ahead, researchers at University of Maine say they've uncovered another reason to get a flu shot - especially for those with muscle disorders.

"The flu virus actually gets into your muscle cells," says Associate Professor Clarissa Henry, "so this is the first time it's been shown in a live animal."

Henry served as adviser on a research project spearheaded by grad student Michelle Goody. Henry says the research was able to show - using zebrafish as subjects - that the influenza virus actually damages muscle fibers in several ways. In healthy individuals, these muscle fibers will eventually be rebuilt.

But Henry says that's not the case for someone with a muscle disease, such as muscular dystrophy.

"That's what our results are really pointing to," she says. "So, what Michelle observed was not just a little bit more muscle damage, she pretty much observed that the muscle was completely decimated."

Henry says the results suggest that flu prevention and vaccination is likely even more important for those with muscle diseases than previously understood.