06:24am Friday 10 July 2020

NIH scientists assess history, pandemic potential of H7 influenza viruses

In recent decades, the scientists write, avian H7 viruses have caused numerous influenza outbreaks among poultry in Europe and North America. Since at least 1918, none of these poultry-adapted viruses has evolved to widely infect humans or cause a pandemic. However, some of them have stably adapted to infect mammals such as horses, suggesting that these viruses might become adapted to and transmissible among other mammals, including humans. In particular, the novel H7N9 virus shares some genes with the H9N2 influenza virus subtype, which has also infected humans. This genetic relatedness may predispose it to more easily adapt to humans than other H7 viruses.

The possibility that H7N9 or another H7 virus may adapt to easily infect humans highlights a need for more research on how avian influenza strains adapt to mammals, especially humans, and better integration of influenza research between human and veterinary public health specialists, the study authors conclude.


Study authors Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID director; David M. Morens, M.D., senior advisor to the NIAID director; and Jeffery K. Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D., section chief in NIAID’s Laboratory of Infectious Diseases are available to discuss the article.


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About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


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Morens DM et al. H7N9 avian influenza and the perpetual challenge of potential human pandemicity. mBio. DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00445-13 (2013).



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