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H5N1 Confirmed in Austrian Poultry

Recombinomics Commentary

February 22, 2006

THE deadly H5N1 bird flu virus has been detected in a chicken in Austria, a health ministry spokeswoman said today.

It is the first time the virus has appeared in poultry in the EU.

The above comments may signal an increase in the H5N1 levels in Europe.  The number of EU contries reporting H5N1 in wild birds has increased markedly in recent days.  All of these reports reflect first reported cases for each country.  The above comments mark the first EU report of H5N1 in domestic poultry.  However, it is likely that such reports will increase due to the reported H5N1 throughout Europe as well as additional H5N1 migration into the area via H5N1 in Africa.

H5N1 has been confirmed in Egypt and Nigeria.  The sequence of H5N1 HA in a chicken in Nigeria, A/chicken/Nigeria/641/2006(H5N1), has been released at GenBank.  It is most closely related to H5N1 from a chicken in Kurgan (A/chicken/Kurgan/3/2005(H5N1), which is related to the Qinghai Lake H5N1 isolates and is similar to the H5N1 circulating throughout Europe.

In Africa, reports of H5N1 have been limited to Nigeria and Africa, but H5N1 infections throughout Africa are likely (see map).  Moreover,  polymorphisms in recent H5N1 isolates from mute swans in Astrakhan indicate H5N1 has already migrated to North America.  H5N1 in North America and western Europe will be increased by H5N1 migrating north via the East Atlantic Flyway.

HA in the Nigeria sequence has S at position 227.  Donor sequences for the acquisition of G228S are present in H1N1 swine in western Europe.  H3 receptor binding domains have S at positions 227 and 228, which would match the Nigerian sequence if G228S was acquired.

The rapidly expanding geographical reach of H5N1 is cause for concern.  As H5N1 migrates into new areas, opportunities for additional recombination increase.


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