Avian influenza virus H7N9 after all less dangerous?

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Avian influenza virus H7N9 less dangerous than expected

Researchers are currently assuming that the risk from the H7N9 bird flu pathogen is lower than originally feared. Studies have shown that the virus is poorly adapted to humans. Therefore, people are less at risk.

According to new findings, danger is overestimated Apparently, the risk posed by the bird flu virus H7N9 is greatly overestimated. As US researchers report in the journal "Science", the pathogen, which has already cost the lives of around 40 people, is hardly adapted to people. This goes against the worry based on previous studies that the virus could spread to a pandemic in winter. Molecular biologist James Paulson of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, is quoted in a statement from the facility: “Because studies have shown that H7N9 has adapted to human receptors, we thought we did should make a clear statement on this. "

Death rate of almost 30 percent In February, the pathogen was first registered in the east of China and only a few days ago, a first case of bird flu H7N9 became known in Hong Kong. Of the 132 H7N9 patients confirmed by May, 37 died, which corresponds to a death rate of almost 30 percent. The virus only causes mild symptoms in birds, but it can cause breathlessness and severe pneumonia in humans. Since the wave of illnesses largely subsided in May, only a few infections have been registered. But researchers continued to warn that the cases could pile up in winter. Studies, for example on ferrets or monkeys, would have indicated that H7N9 can spread among mammals and also through human faeces.

Researchers don't give the all-clear The US researchers led by Paulson and Ian Wilson, who also research at the Scripps Institute, are now disagreeing. Using the Sh2 pathogen type, they tested the ability to bind to human cells. Examination by crystal structure analysis showed that the membrane protein hemagglutinin (HA), with which the virus attaches to human receptors, only weakly docks, in contrast to some receptors in birds. However, the scientists do not want to give the all-clear, and Wilson explains: "These results indicate that we should continue to monitor H7N9 and watch for changes that make it more likely to spread among humans."

Typical symptoms of bird flu Typical bird flu symptoms initially resemble those of conventional flu and usually include high fever, cough, sore throat and occasional shortness of breath. In rare cases, those affected also suffer from diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. It may take several weeks for the virus to come into contact with the first symptoms. (ad)

Image: Aka / pixelio.de

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Video: Avian Influenza Disease


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