The pandemic potential of H9N2 avian influenza viruses

August 13, 2008

Since their introduction into land-based birds in 1988, H9N2 avian influenza A viruses have caused multiple human infections and become endemic in domestic poultry in Eurasia. This particular influenza subtype has been evolving and acquiring characteristics that raise concerns that it may become more transmissible among humans. Mechanisms that allow infection and subsequent human-to-human transmission of avian influenza viruses are not well understood.

In a new study published August 13 in the journal PLoS ONE, Daniel Perez (of the University of Maryland) and colleagues used ferrets to characterize the mechanism of replication and transmission of recent avian H9N2 viruses. The researchers show that some currently circulating avian H9N2 viruses can transmit to naïve ferrets placed in direct contact with infected ferrets. However, aerosol transmission was not observed, a key factor in potentially pandemic strains.

More importantly, Perez and colleagues show that a single amino acid residue (Leu226) at the receptor-binding site (RBS) of the hemagglutinin (HA) surface protein plays a major role in the ability of these viruses to transmit. They also found that an avian-human H9N2 reassortant virus increases virulence, pathology and replication in ferrets. These results suggest that the establishment and prevalence of H9N2 viruses in poultry could pose a significant threat for humans.

Citation: Wan H, Sorrell EM, Song H, Hossain MJ, Ramirez-Nieto G, et al. (2008) Replication and Transmission of H9N2 Influenza Viruses in Ferrets: Evaluation of Pandemic Potential. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2923. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002923 dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002923

Source: Public Library of Science

Explore further: Veterinary team looks at wild amphibians as possible zoonotic disease hosts

Related Stories

How lethal bird flu viruses evolved

September 19, 2013

Deadly H7N9 avian flu viruses infected people for the first time earlier this year in China, but little is known about how they evolved to become harmful to humans. In a study published by Cell Press on September 19 in Cell ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.