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When well-known flu strains 'hook up' dangerous progeny can result
Date:7/13/2011

e that may advance modern medicine's longstanding effort to learn how to predict when pandemic flu viruses will arise. An effort that in recent years has focused on study of H5, H7, and H9 subtypes of flu viruses because these all occasionally infect humans and, in the case of H5 viruses, can cause significant disease and death.

For their PNAS study, the researchers created four reassortant viruses with one or two genes from the H9N2 virus and the rest of the genes from pH1N1. They used two different H9N2 viruses to provide the genes. One was a typical H9N2 isolated from a bird in Asia. The other was an avian isolate that had been adapted to infect and transmit in mammals.

Perez and colleagues looked at the growth characteristics of these four viruses and also their infectivity and transmissibility in ferrets. Ferrets are used as a model for human infections as they are susceptible to the same viruses and show similar signs of infection. All four viruses were able to grow to relatively high levels in cell culture. Similarly all four viruses infected ferrets and showed similar signs of disease and levels of replication. Additionally, they were all able to transmit to ferrets housed in the same cage and allowed physical contact. Finally, three of the four viruses were able to transmit to ferrets that were physically separated but shared the same air.

The new results are important for several reasons according to Perez. "Ours is the first study to show respiratory transmission of an H9 reassortant virus in mammals without prior adaptation. This is important because a new virus must be able to transmit via the respiratory route to impact the human population significantly. Secondly, adapting some of the genes to mammalian hosts allows for more efficient infection and transmission. Finally, these studies indicate that the pH1N1 and H9N2 influenza subtypes are highly compatible for reassortment with each other. And this compatibility mean
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Contact: Lee Tune
ltune@umd.edu
301-405-4679
University of Maryland
Source:Eurekalert  

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