H7N9 study in human airway tissues adds to pandemic concerns

Thursday, July 25, 2013
By Paul Martin

Lisa Schnirring
Jul 25, 2013

Lab tests exploring the new H7N9 influenza virus causing cases in China show that it easily infects human lung tissues and cells, another sign of its pandemic potential, a Hong Kong research team reported today.

Earlier gene studies found markers suggesting that the H7N9 virus has the capacity to infect human respiratory cells, but today’s findings are the first to show infection and replication in the lab setting.

The new findings are part of an urgent global effort to assess the pandemic potential of the new virus. Over the last few weeks research teams in China, Japan, and the United States have found that the virus can spread by droplets in animal models, another indication of H7N9’s pandemic potential. So far, though, the virus does not appear to spread easily from human to human.

The report describing the findings appears in the latest issue of The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The team was led by Malik Peiris, PhD, and John Nicholls, MBBS, both with the University of Hong Kong.

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