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Genetic analysis of novel influenza virus A (H7N9) raises concern about pandemic potential

T. Kageyama, S. Fujisaki, E. Takashita, H. Xu, S. Yamada, Y. Uchida and others

AS of April 10, 2013, novel influenza A viruses of the H7N9 subgroup had infected 33 and killed another nine people in the Shanghai, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces of China. This study aimed to carry out a biological evaluation of the genetic sequences of the avian influenza A (H7N9) viruses that caused the fatal human infections.

From the genetic analysis of the first four fatal cases, the researchers found that the novel influenza A (H7N9) viruses were likely to have acquired the haemagglutinin (HA) gene from an avian H7 virus of unknown neuraminidase (NA) subtype, the NA gene from an avian N9 unknown HA subtype, and the remaining viral segments from avian H9N2 viruses known to have been circulating in poultry in Shanghai, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and neighbouring provinces of Shanghai.

Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses are characterised by a series of basic amino acids at the HA cleavage site that enable systemic virus to spread. The HA cleavage sequence of the novel influenza A(H7N9) viruses possessed a single basic single amino acid, suggesting that these viruses would be of low pathogenicity in avian species.

Antiviral compounds are the …

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