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Chinese researchers are discovering a new variant of the bird flu virus
In China, there is an increasing number of infections with the new avian influenza virus. While health authorities are still fully involved in containing H7N9 infections, a new virus has now appeared: H10N8. "We are reporting the first human infection with a novel influenza A virus H10N8," write Chinese scientists in the specialist magazine "The Lancet".
Human infections with different bird flu viruses such as H5N1, H9N2 or H7N9 have raised considerable concerns among experts. A worldwide pandemic is feared if the pathogens become mutable from person to person. With the discovery of the new bird flu virus H10N8, this concern has increased. Although the Chinese health authorities have initiated numerous preventive measures in the past few months in view of the growing prevalence of H7N9 infections, China currently appears to be a veritable breeding ground for new variants of avian influenza viruses. Not least due to the close contact between humans and birds, for example in the poultry markets, transmissions and mutations of the pathogens are increasingly observed here.
Numerous deaths from H7N9 infections At present, China is still struggling with the H7N9 infection wave, which has resulted in 26 deaths and more than 110 new cases since the beginning of the year. With the ongoing Chinese New Year, a significant increase in infections is expected here again. Due to the risk of infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned Chinese travelers about staying in poultry farms and markets, entering areas where poultry is slaughtered, and contacting surfaces contaminated with poultry droppings. According to the WHO, particular attention should be paid to personal hygiene.
New variant of the bird flu virus identified The new bird flu virus H10N8 was first detected in December of last year in a 73-year-old patient in the capital of east China's Jiangxi province, according to the research team led by Professor Yuelong Shu from the Chinese National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention. On November 30, the woman was admitted to Nanchang Hospital due to severe bird flu symptoms. The patient died of multi-organ failure nine days after hospital admission. In the subsequent laboratory examination of aspirate samples from the trachea, the researchers were able to identify the new variant of the H10N8 virus using a sequence analysis. "The epidemiological investigation showed that the patient had visited a poultry market four days before the onset of the disease," Professor Yuelong Shu and colleagues describe the route of infection. The pandemic potential of the novel H10N8 virus should not be underestimated, since the virus has genetic properties that enable it to multiply rapidly in the human organism.
Increasing danger of a pandemic
In view of the recurrence of a human-pathogenic variant of an avian influenza virus, the health authorities are increasingly worried about a significant expansion of the wave of infections in China. Due to the close coexistence of humans and poultry, especially in rural regions, the pathogens can not only easily jump from animals to humans, but also new mutations of the viruses develop. This increases the risk that avian influenza viruses can develop that can be transmitted from person to person. According to the experts, if this happens, a bird flu pandemic would be the likely consequence. (fp)
Image: Gerd Altmann / pixelio.de