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Influenza: Insights into cell specificity of human vs. avian viruses
Date:10/9/2007

Rotterdam, The Netherlands Researchers have identified which sites and cell types within the respiratory tract are targeted by human versus avian influenza viruses, providing valuable insights into the pathogenesis of these divergent diseases. The report by van Riel et al, Human and avian influenza viruses target different cells in the lower respiratory tract of humans and other mammals, appears in the October issue of The American Journal of Pathology and is accompanied by a commentary and highlighted on the cover.

Differences in cellular expression of target molecules correspond to host specificity of influenza viruses. They also define which organs or tissues are infected within the host. For example, highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus targets cells deep within the lower respiratory tract whereas human influenza virus is thought to target cells of the upper respiratory tract, including the trachea.

To better elucidate the differences between low and highly pathogenic avian influenza virus versus human influenza virus, researchers led by Dr. Thijs Kuiken of Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, used a technique called virus histochemistry. This method examines the attachment pattern of influenza virus to isolated respiratory tissues, thus identifying the cells targeted by the virus.

When human viruses were tested, both attached strongly to the trachea and bronchi, but virus binding to the bronchioles and alveoli (deeper within the lung) was less abundant in comparison. In contrast, viral attachment of avian viruses was rare in the trachea but more abundant in the bronchioles and alveoli. Further, the cellular targets in the alveoli also differed: human virus preferred type I pneumocytes whereas avian virus bound type II pneumocytes and alveolar macrophages. Interestingly, low and highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses attached to the same cell types, demonstrating that factors other than binding ability must contri
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Contact: Audra Cox
acox@asip.org
301-634-7409
American Journal of Pathology
Source:Eurekalert

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