Belser JA, Sun X, Brock N, et al. Genetically and Antigenically Divergent Influenza A(H9N2) Viruses Exhibit Differential Replication and Transmission Phenotypes in Mammalian Models. J Virol. 2020;JVI.00451-20
Low pathogenicity avian influenza A(H9N2) viruses, enzootic in poultry populations in Asia, are associated with fewer confirmed human infections but higher rates of seropositivity compared to A(H5) or A(H7) subtype viruses. Co-circulation of A(H5) and A(H7) viruses leads to the generation of reassortant viruses bearing A(H9N2) internal genes with markers of mammalian adaptation, warranting continued surveillance in both avian and human populations. Here, we describe active surveillance efforts in live poultry markets in Vietnam in 2018 and compare representative viruses to G1 and Y280 lineage viruses that have infected humans. Receptor binding properties, pH thresholds for HA activation, in vitro replication in human respiratory tract cells, and in vivo mammalian pathogenicity and transmissibility were investigated. While A(H9N2) viruses from both poultry and humans exhibited features associated with mammalian adaptation, one human isolate from 2018, A/Anhui-Lujiang/39/2018, exhibited increased capacity for replication and transmission, demonstrating the pandemic potential of A(H9N2) viruses.IMPORTANCE A(H9N2) influenza viruses are widespread in poultry in many parts of the world, and for over twenty years, have sporadically jumped species barriers to cause human infection. As these viruses continue to diversify genetically and antigenically, it is critical to closely monitor viruses responsible for human infections, to ascertain if A(H9N2) viruses are acquiring properties that make them better suited to infect and spread among humans. In this study, we describe an active poultry surveillance system established in Vietnam to identify the scope of influenza viruses present in live bird markets and the threat they pose to human health. Assessment of a recent A(H9N2) virus isolated from an individual in China in 2018 is also reported and was found to exhibit properties of adaptation to humans and, importantly, show similarities to strains isolated from the live bird markets of Vietnam.
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