The Potential for Respiratory Droplet-Transmissible A/H5N1 Influenza Virus to Evolve in a Mammalian Host

CA Russell, Judy Fonville, AEX Brown, DF Burke, DL Smith, SL James, Sander Herfst, Sander van Boheemen, Martin Linster, Eefje Schrauwen, L Katzelnick, A Mosterin, Thijs Kuiken, E Maher, G Neumann, Ab Osterhaus, Y Kawaoka, Ron Fouchier, Derek Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

237 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Avian A/H5N1 influenza viruses pose a pandemic threat. As few as five amino acid substitutions, or four with reassortment, might be sufficient for mammal-to-mammal transmission through respiratory droplets. From surveillance data, we found that two of these substitutions are common in A/H5N1 viruses, and thus, some viruses might require only three additional substitutions to become transmissible via respiratory droplets between mammals. We used a mathematical model of within-host virus evolution to study factors that could increase and decrease the probability of the remaining substitutions evolving after the virus has infected a mammalian host. These factors, combined with the presence of some of these substitutions in circulating strains, make a virus evolving in nature a potentially serious threat. These results highlight critical areas in which more data are needed for assessing, and potentially averting, this threat.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)1541-1547
Number of pages7
JournalScience
Volume336
Issue number6088
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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