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Concept: 2009 flu pandemic


Highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza A viruses occasionally infect humans, but currently do not transmit efficiently among humans. The viral haemagglutinin (HA) protein is a known host-range determinant as it mediates virus binding to host-specific cellular receptors. Here we assess the molecular changes in HA that would allow a virus possessing subtype H5 HA to be transmissible among mammals. We identified a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus-comprising H5 HA (from an H5N1 virus) with four mutations and the remaining seven gene segments from a 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus-that was capable of droplet transmission in a ferret model. The transmissible H5 reassortant virus preferentially recognized human-type receptors, replicated efficiently in ferrets, caused lung lesions and weight loss, but was not highly pathogenic and did not cause mortality. These results indicate that H5 HA can convert to an HA that supports efficient viral transmission in mammals; however, we do not know whether the four mutations in the H5 HA identified here would render a wholly avian H5N1 virus transmissible. The genetic origin of the remaining seven viral gene segments may also critically contribute to transmissibility in mammals. Nevertheless, as H5N1 viruses continue to evolve and infect humans, receptor-binding variants of H5N1 viruses with pandemic potential, including avian-human reassortant viruses as tested here, may emerge. Our findings emphasize the need to prepare for potential pandemics caused by influenza viruses possessing H5 HA, and will help individuals conducting surveillance in regions with circulating H5N1 viruses to recognize key residues that predict the pandemic potential of isolates, which will inform the development, production and distribution of effective countermeasures.

Concepts: Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H5N1


Concerns have been raised over competing interests (CoI) among academics during the 2009 to 2010 A/H1N1 pandemic. Media reporting can influence public anxiety and demand for pharmaceutical products. We assessed CoI of academics providing media commentary during the early stages of the pandemic.

Concepts: Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus, H1N1


Influenza A H5N1 has killed millions of birds and raises serious public health concern because of its potential to spread to humans and cause a global pandemic. While the early focus was in Asia, recent evidence suggests that Egypt is a new epicenter for the disease. This includes characterization of a variant clade, which has been found almost exclusively in Egypt.We analyzed 226 HA and 92 NA sequences with an emphasis on the H5N1 strains in Egypt using a Bayesian discrete phylogeography approach. This allowed modeling of virus dispersion between Egyptian governorates including the most likely origin.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Egypt


Numerous models explore how a wide variety of biological and social phenomena spread in social networks. However, these models implicitly assume that the spread of one phenomenon is not affected by the spread of another. Here, we develop a model of “dueling contagions”, with a particular illustration of a situation where one is biological (influenza) and the other is social (flu vaccination). We apply the model to unique time series data collected during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic that includes information about vaccination, flu, and face-to-face social networks. The results show that well-connected individuals are more likely to get vaccinated, as are people who are exposed to friends who get vaccinated or are exposed to friends who get the flu. Our dueling contagion model suggests that other epidemiological models may be dramatically underestimating the R0 of contagions. It also suggests that the rate of vaccination contagion may be even more important than the biological contagion in determining the course of the disease. These results suggest that real world and online platforms that make it easier to see when friends have been vaccinated (personalized vaccination campaigns) and when they get the flu (personalized flu warnings) could have a large impact on reducing the severity of epidemics. They also suggest possible benefits from understanding the coevolution of many kinds of dueling contagions.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Vaccine, Influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1


Assessing the mortality impact of the 2009 influenza A H1N1 virus (H1N1pdm09) is essential for optimizing public health responses to future pandemics. The World Health Organization reported 18,631 laboratory-confirmed pandemic deaths, but the total pandemic mortality burden was substantially higher. We estimated the 2009 pandemic mortality burden through statistical modeling of mortality data from multiple countries.

Concepts: Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, World Health Organization, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus


Asia is considered an important source of influenza A virus (IAV) pandemics, owing to large, diverse viral reservoirs in poultry and swine. However, the zoonotic origins of the 2009 A/H1N1 influenza pandemic virus (pdmH1N1) remain unclear, due to conflicting evidence from swine and humans. There is strong evidence that the first human outbreak of pdmH1N1 occurred in Mexico in early 2009. However, no related swine viruses have been detected in Mexico or any part of the Americas, and to date the most closely related ancestor viruses were identified in Asian swine. Here, we use 58 new whole-genome sequences from IAVs collected in Mexican swine to establish that the swine virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic evolved in central Mexico. This finding highlights how the 2009 pandemic arose from a region not considered a pandemic risk, owing to an expansion of IAV diversity in swine resulting from long-distance live swine trade.

Concepts: Influenza, Influenza pandemic, Swine influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus


Two zoonotic influenza A viruses (IAV) of global concern, H5N1 and H7N9, exhibit unexplained differences in age distribution of human cases. Using data from all known human cases of these viruses, we show that an individual’s first IAV infection confers lifelong protection against severe disease from novel hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes in the same phylogenetic group. Statistical modeling shows that protective HA imprinting is the crucial explanatory factor, and it provides 75% protection against severe infection and 80% protection against death for both H5N1 and H7N9. Our results enable us to predict age distributions of severe disease for future pandemics and demonstrate that a novel strain’s pandemic potential increases yearly when a group-mismatched HA subtype dominates seasonal influenza circulation. These findings open new frontiers for rational pandemic risk assessment.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic


Influenza activity has been surging in the United States, and there are reports of critical illness and death in young and middle-aged adults. The predominant virus so far this season is influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, the cause of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Despite many challenges, there is much that the public, patients, the public health community, and clinicians can do now to reduce influenza’s impact. The spread of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus suggests that despite its ongoing circulation since 2009, population immunity is not sufficiently high and many people remain susceptible. To date, surveillance data provide no evidence of significant antigenic drift in . . .

Concepts: Influenza, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Swine influenza, Pandemic, World Health Organization, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Pandemic H1N1/09 virus


Interspecies transmission of influenza A is an important factor in the evolution and ecology of influenza viruses. Marine mammals are in contact with a number of influenza reservoirs, including aquatic birds and humans, and this may facilitate transmission among avian and mammalian hosts. Virus isolation, whole genome sequencing, and hemagluttination inhibition assay confirmed that exposure to pandemic H1N1 influenza virus occurred among free-ranging Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris) in 2010. Nasal swabs were collected from 42 adult female seals in April 2010, just after the animals had returned to the central California coast from their short post-breeding migration in the northeast Pacific. Swabs from two seals tested positive by RT-PCR for the matrix gene, and virus was isolated from each by inoculation into embryonic chicken eggs. Whole genome sequencing revealed greater than 99% homology with A/California/04/2009 (H1N1) that emerged in humans from swine in 2009. Analysis of more than 300 serum samples showed that samples collected early in 2010 (n = 100) were negative and by April animals began to test positive for antibodies against the pH1N1 virus (HI titer of ≥1∶40), supporting the molecular findings. In vitro characterizations studies revealed that viral replication was indistinguishable from that of reference strains of pH1N1 in canine kidney cells, but replication was inefficient in human epithelial respiratory cells, indicating these isolates may be elephant seal adapted viruses. Thus findings confirmed that exposure to pandemic H1N1 that was circulating in people in 2009 occurred among free-ranging Northern Elephant Seals in 2010 off the central California coast. This is the first report of pH1N1 (A/Elephant seal/California/1/2010) in any marine mammal and provides evidence for cross species transmission of influenza viruses in free-ranging wildlife and movement of influenza viruses between humans and wildlife.

Concepts: DNA, Influenza, Swine influenza, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1, Northern Elephant Seal, Elephant seal


Avian influenza A viruses rarely infect humans; however, when human infection and subsequent human-to-human transmission occurs, worldwide outbreaks (pandemics) can result. The recent sporadic infections of humans in China with a previously unrecognized avian influenza A virus of the H7N9 subtype (A(H7N9)) have caused concern owing to the appreciable case fatality rate associated with these infections (more than 25%), potential instances of human-to-human transmission, and the lack of pre-existing immunity among humans to viruses of this subtype. Here we characterize two early human A(H7N9) isolates, A/Anhui/1/2013 (H7N9) and A/Shanghai/1/2013 (H7N9); hereafter referred to as Anhui/1 and Shanghai/1, respectively. In mice, Anhui/1 and Shanghai/1 were more pathogenic than a control avian H7N9 virus (A/duck/Gunma/466/2011 (H7N9); Dk/GM466) and a representative pandemic 2009 H1N1 virus (A/California/4/2009 (H1N1pdm09); CA04). Anhui/1, Shanghai/1 and Dk/GM466 replicated well in the nasal turbinates of ferrets. In nonhuman primates, Anhui/1 and Dk/GM466 replicated efficiently in the upper and lower respiratory tracts, whereas the replicative ability of conventional human influenza viruses is typically restricted to the upper respiratory tract of infected primates. By contrast, Anhui/1 did not replicate well in miniature pigs after intranasal inoculation. Critically, Anhui/1 transmitted through respiratory droplets in one of three pairs of ferrets. Glycan arrays showed that Anhui/1, Shanghai/1 and A/Hangzhou/1/2013 (H7N9) (a third human A(H7N9) virus tested in this assay) bind to human virus-type receptors, a property that may be critical for virus transmissibility in ferrets. Anhui/1 was found to be less sensitive in mice to neuraminidase inhibitors than a pandemic H1N1 2009 virus, although both viruses were equally susceptible to an experimental antiviral polymerase inhibitor. The robust replicative ability in mice, ferrets and nonhuman primates and the limited transmissibility in ferrets of Anhui/1 suggest that A(H7N9) viruses have pandemic potential.

Concepts: Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Swine influenza, Pandemic, 2009 flu pandemic, Influenza A virus subtype H1N1