February 5, 2014 – CHINA – Chinese scientists sounded the alarm on Wednesday after a new bird flu virus, H10N8, killed anelderly woman in December and infected another individual last month. The fifth novel influenza strain to emerge in 17 years, the virus has a worrying genetic profile and should be closely monitored, they reported in The Lancet medical journal. It appears to be able to infect tissue deep in the lung and may have features allowing it to spread fficiently among humans, they said. “The pandemic potential of this novel virus should not be underestimated,” said the team headed by Shu Yuelong from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Beijing. The warning stems from analysis of a virus sample taken from a 73-year-old woman who died in Nanchang, in southeastern Jiangxi province, on December 6 after being diagnosed with severe pneumonia and respiratory failure. Although the cases are few, the fact it has jumped from birds to humans is an important warning, the researchers said. “We should always be worried when viruses cross the species barrier from birds or animals to humans, as it is very unlikely that we will have prior immunity to protect us,” said Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome Trust and an expert on flu. “We should be especially worried when those viruses show characteristics that suggest they have the capacity to replicate easily or to be virulent or resistant to drugs. This virus ticks several of these boxes and therefore is a cause for concern.” The Chinese authorities announced her death from H10N8 on December 18. –SCMP
One woman died and another person has been diagnosed with an infection from a bird flu virus that has never been seen in humans before, according to a study released on Wednesday in British medical journal The Lancet. Chinese scientists cautioned in the journal about the pandemic potential of the new avian influenza H10N8 virus, citing the continued spread of other bird flu strains. The virus was found to have caused the death of a 73-year-old woman from Nanchang City after she came to a hospital with severe pneumonia and a fever. She died nine days after the onset of illness due to multiple organ failure. Another case was discovered in the Jiangxi Province on January 26, prompting one of the co-authors of the study to warn of the possibility of further infections. Though there had previously been no reports of human infection with the virus subtype, scientists were familiar with the strain after it was detected in a water sample take from Dongting Lake in Hunan Province in 2007 and at a live poultry market in Guangdong province in 2012.
China is already on alert due to continued cases of the H7N9 strain, which has killed about 50 people in China since it was first detected in March last year. Last week, Hong Kong announced it would cull 20,000 chickens after the virus was found in a wholesale market. While the H10N8 virus is distinct from the H7N9 strain, according to genome sequencing tests conducted by the authors of the Lancet paper, it shares genetic characteristics that have been derived from a H9N2 strain. Scientists said all the genes of the virus originated from birds. “Notably, H9N2 virus provided the internal genes not only for the H10N8 virus, but also for H7N9 and H5N1 viruses,” one of the authors, Dr Yuelong Shu from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Lancet. One of the gene mutations, the authors said, could make the virus more infectious to humans. The woman from Nanchang City had reportedly been to a poultry market a few days prior to infection, but subsequent investigations of the market found no traces of the virus. The cause of her infection remains unknown. –LSE