New studies on H7N9 raise pandemic concerns

Thursday, July 11, 2013
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
Jul 10, 2013

Two research teams that conducted a massive number of experiments on the new H7N9 influenza virus found more signs that it could be a pandemic virus, though their animal tests showed that its ability to spread through coughs and sneezes isn’t as robust as seasonal flu.

The two studies are among several recent efforts to assess the threat from the new virus, which infected 134 people, 43 of them fatally, before tapering off in early June. Experts aren’t sure if the virus has died out or if it has temporarily retreated due to warmer weather and perhaps the effects of outbreak response measures aimed at live-poultry markets in some of China’s biggest cities.

Both studies were published in the same issue of Nature. One of the teams is from Japan and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, lab of Yoshihiro Kawaoka, DVM, PhD. That team conducted several types of tests and comparisons on two novel H7N9 strains from China, an earlier avian H7N9 strain, and the 2009 H1N1 virus. They also examined how the new virus behaves in mice, ferrets, miniature pigs, macaques.

The second group includes scientists from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which also studied two novel H7N9 strains from China, focusing on how it infects human cells and how it spreads in ferrets and mice.

Pandemic potential in first study

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