First case of human infection with new bird flu virus is confirmed.


Scientists have reported that a 20 year old woman in Taiwan was infected with the wild avian influenza A H6N1 virus and said that this highlighted the need to be prepared for any possible future pandemic of avian flu. The previously healthywoman presented to hospital with flu-like symptoms and shortness of breath inMay 2013. She was treated with oseltamivir and has since recovered, said the report in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine. A genetic analysis of throat swab samples showed a novel avian origin H6N1 virus that closely resembled chicken H6N1 viruses that have been circulating in Taiwan since 1972. However, this virus had a mutation G228S in the haemagglutinin protein that might increase its affinity for a receptor called SAα-2,6 found in the human upper respiratory tract. This is the first known report of human infection with a wild avian influenza A H6N1 virus. Researchers have not been able to identify the source of the infection. The woman, who worked in a delicatessen as a clerk, had not been abroad for three months before becoming ill or been in close proximity to poultry or wild birds. Of the 36 close contacts of the woman, six developed fever or respiratory infection but none of the causative pathogens were identified, although H6N1 infections were ruled out. No H6N1 virus was found in samples collected from two poultry breeding sites near the woman’s home. Ho-Sheng Wu, from the Centres for Disease Control in Taipei and lead author of the report, said, “Our findings suggest that a unique group of H6N1 viruses with the human adaptionmarker G228S have become endemic and predominant in poultry in Taiwan. As these viruses continue to evolve and accumulate changes they increase the potential risk of human infection. Further investigations are needed to clarify the potential threat posed by this emerging virus.” Writing in a linked commentary, Marion Koopmans, from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, said, “Viruses with H6 subtype haemagglutinins are quite prevalent in wild birds and have often been identified in poultry, along with other influenza viruses, resulting in generation of an ever expanding diverse set of influenza viruses through genetic reassortment . . . What would it take for these viruses to evolve into a pandemic strain? And an overriding question is if it is time to review our approaches to influenza surveillance at the human-animal interface?”

DOI: 10.1136/bmj.f6862

Cite this paper

@article{Wise2013FirstCO, title={First case of human infection with new bird flu virus is confirmed.}, author={Jacqui Wise}, journal={BMJ}, year={2013}, volume={347}, pages={f6862} }