In findings with implications for pandemic influenza, a new study reports for the first time that a less-virulent strain of avian influenza virus can spread from poultry to humans. The research appears in the October 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online.
Crossing the species barrier is an important step in the development of a flu virus with pandemic potential. Previous studies have focused on the ability of highly pathogenic strains, such as H5N1 “bird flu” circulating in Asia, to spread from poultry to humans. The new study shows less pathogenic strains are also capable of jumping to humans, giving them the opportunity to swap genetic material with human strains, which could result in a more virulent virus.
Researchers in Italy studied outbreaks that occurred among poultry between 1999 and 2003, to determine the risk of avian influenza virus transmission to persons in contact with the animals. The outbreaks occurred in northern Italy in regions where the majority of the countrys commercial poultry are raised on farms. Most previous cases of human infection with avian influenza viruses have involved close contact with infected poultry, particularly ill or dying chickens.
Steve Baragona | EurekAlert!
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