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Concept: Avian influenza


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


The avian H7N9 influenza outbreak in 2013 resulted from an unprecedented incidence of influenza transmission to humans from infected poultry. The majority of human H7N9 isolates contained a hemagglutinin (HA) mutation (Q226L) that has previously been associated with a switch in receptor specificity from avian-type (NeuAcα2-3Gal) to human-type (NeuAcα2-6Gal), as documented for the avian progenitors of the 1957 (H2N2) and 1968 (H3N2) human influenza pandemic viruses. While this raised concern that the H7N9 virus was adapting to humans, the mutation was not sufficient to switch the receptor specificity of H7N9, and has not resulted in sustained transmission in humans. To determine if the H7 HA was capable of acquiring human-type receptor specificity, we conducted mutation analyses. Remarkably, three amino acid mutations conferred a switch in specificity for human-type receptors that resembled the specificity of the 2009 human H1 pandemic virus, and promoted binding to human trachea epithelial cells.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Pandemic, Human flu


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



During March 2013-February 24, 2017, annual epidemics of avian influenza A(H7N9) in China resulted in 1,258 avian influenza A(H7N9) virus infections in humans being reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China and other regional sources (1). During the first four epidemics, 88% of patients developed pneumonia, 68% were admitted to an intensive care unit, and 41% died (2). Candidate vaccine viruses (CVVs) were developed, and vaccine was manufactured based on representative viruses detected after the emergence of A(H7N9) virus in humans in 2013. During the ongoing fifth epidemic (beginning October 1, 2016),* 460 human infections with A(H7N9) virus have been reported, including 453 in mainland China, six associated with travel to mainland China from Hong Kong (four cases), Macao (one) and Taiwan (one), and one in an asymptomatic poultry worker in Macao (1). Although the clinical characteristics and risk factors for human infections do not appear to have changed (2,3), the reported human infections during the fifth epidemic represent a significant increase compared with the first four epidemics, which resulted in 135 (first epidemic), 320 (second), 226 (third), and 119 (fourth epidemic) human infections (2). Most human infections continue to result in severe respiratory illness and have been associated with poultry exposure. Although some limited human-to-human spread continues to be identified, no sustained human-to-human A(H7N9) transmission has been observed (2,3).

Concepts: Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, People's Republic of China, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, World Health Organization, Hong Kong


In the United States, annual vaccination against seasonal influenza is recommended for all persons aged ≥6 months (1). Each influenza season since 2004-05, CDC has estimated the effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine to prevent influenza-associated, medically attended, acute respiratory illness (ARI). This report uses data, as of February 4, 2017, from 3,144 children and adults enrolled in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network (U.S. Flu VE Network) during November 28, 2016-February 4, 2017, to estimate an interim adjusted effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine for preventing laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infection associated with medically attended ARI. During this period, overall vaccine effectiveness (VE) (adjusted for study site, age group, sex, race/ethnicity, self-rated general health, and days from illness onset to enrollment) against influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended ARI was 48% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 37%-57%). Most influenza infections were caused by A (H3N2) viruses. VE was estimated to be 43% (CI = 29%-54%) against illness caused by influenza A (H3N2) virus and 73% (CI = 54%-84%) against influenza B virus. These interim VE estimates indicate that influenza vaccination reduced the risk for outpatient medical visits by almost half. Because influenza activity remains elevated (2), CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that annual influenza vaccination efforts continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating (1). Vaccination with 2016-17 influenza vaccines will reduce the number of infections with most currently circulating influenza viruses. Persons aged ≥6 months who have not yet been vaccinated this season should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Concepts: Immune system, Virus, Vaccine, Vaccination, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Influenza vaccine


Severe disease in humans caused by a novel influenza A virus that is distinct from circulating human influenza A viruses is a seminal event. It might herald sporadic human infections from an animal source - e.g., highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) virus; or it might signal the start of an influenza pandemic - e.g., influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus. Therefore, the discovery of novel influenza A (H7N9) virus infections in three critically ill patients reported in the Journal by Gao and colleagues is of major public health significance. Chinese scientists are to be congratulated for the apparent speed with which . . .

Concepts: Microbiology, Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus subtype H5N1


Among all influenza viruses assessed using CDC’s Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT), the Asian lineage avian influenza A(H7N9) virus (Asian H7N9), first reported in China in March 2013,* is ranked as the influenza virus with the highest potential pandemic risk (1). During October 1, 2016-August 7, 2017, the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China; CDC, Taiwan; the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection; and the Macao CDC reported 759 human infections with Asian H7N9 viruses, including 281 deaths, to the World Health Organization (WHO), making this the largest of the five epidemics of Asian H7N9 infections that have occurred since 2013 (Figure 1). This report summarizes new viral and epidemiologic features identified during the fifth epidemic of Asian H7N9 in China and summarizes ongoing measures to enhance pandemic preparedness. Infections in humans and poultry were reported from most areas of China, including provinces bordering other countries, indicating extensive, ongoing geographic spread. The risk to the general public is very low and most human infections were, and continue to be, associated with poultry exposure, especially at live bird markets in mainland China. Throughout the first four epidemics of Asian H7N9 infections, only low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses were detected among human, poultry, and environmental specimens and samples. During the fifth epidemic, mutations were detected among some Asian H7N9 viruses, identifying the emergence of high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses as well as viruses with reduced susceptibility to influenza antiviral medications recommended for treatment. Furthermore, the fifth-epidemic viruses diverged genetically into two separate lineages (Pearl River Delta lineage and Yangtze River Delta lineage), with Yangtze River Delta lineage viruses emerging as antigenically different compared with those from earlier epidemics. Because of its pandemic potential, candidate vaccine viruses (CVV) were produced in 2013 that have been used to make vaccines against Asian H7N9 viruses circulating at that time. CDC is working with partners to enhance surveillance for Asian H7N9 viruses in humans and poultry, to improve laboratory capability to detect and characterize H7N9 viruses, and to develop, test and distribute new CVV that could be used for vaccine production if a vaccine is needed.

Concepts: Infectious disease, Virus, Influenza, Avian influenza, Pandemic, Influenza vaccine, World Health Organization, Hong Kong


Current influenza vaccines provide limited protection against circulating influenza A viruses. A universal influenza vaccine will eliminate the intrinsic limitations of the seasonal flu vaccines. Here we report methodology to generate double-layered protein nanoparticles as a universal influenza vaccine. Layered nanoparticles are fabricated by desolvating tetrameric M2e into protein nanoparticle cores and coating these cores by crosslinking headless HAs. Representative headless HAs of two HA phylogenetic groups are constructed and purified. Vaccinations with the resulting protein nanoparticles in mice induces robust long-lasting immunity, fully protecting the mice against challenges by divergent influenza A viruses of the same group or both groups. The results demonstrate the importance of incorporating both structure-stabilized HA stalk domains and M2e into a universal influenza vaccine to improve its protective potency and breadth. These potent disassemblable protein nanoparticles indicate a wide application in protein drug delivery and controlled release.

Concepts: Pneumonia, Vaccine, Vaccination, Influenza, Avian influenza, Influenza pandemic, Influenza vaccine, Influenza A virus


Background Infection of poultry with influenza A subtype H7 viruses occurs worldwide, but the introduction of this subtype to humans in Asia has not been observed previously. In March 2013, three urban residents of Shanghai or Anhui, China, presented with rapidly progressing lower respiratory tract infections and were found to be infected with a novel reassortant avian-origin influenza A (H7N9) virus. Methods We obtained and analyzed clinical, epidemiologic, and virologic data from these patients. Respiratory specimens were tested for influenza and other respiratory viruses by means of real-time reverse-transcriptase-polymerase-chain-reaction assays, viral culturing, and sequence analyses. Results A novel reassortant avian-origin influenza A (H7N9) virus was isolated from respiratory specimens obtained from all three patients and was identified as H7N9. Sequencing analyses revealed that all the genes from these three viruses were of avian origin, with six internal genes from avian influenza A (H9N2) viruses. Substitution Q226L (H3 numbering) at the 210-loop in the hemagglutinin (HA) gene was found in the A/Anhui/1/2013 and A/Shanghai/2/2013 virus but not in the A/Shanghai/1/2013 virus. A T160A mutation was identified at the 150-loop in the HA gene of all three viruses. A deletion of five amino acids in the neuraminidase (NA) stalk region was found in all three viruses. All three patients presented with fever, cough, and dyspnea. Two of the patients had a history of recent exposure to poultry. Chest radiography revealed diffuse opacities and consolidation. Complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome and multiorgan failure. All three patients died. Conclusions Novel reassortant H7N9 viruses were associated with severe and fatal respiratory disease in three patients. (Funded by the National Basic Research Program of China and others.).

Concepts: DNA, Pulmonology, Virus, Infection, Acute respiratory distress syndrome, Influenza, Avian influenza, Transmission and infection of H5N1