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A Fatal Familial Cluster of H5N1 Bird Flu in Azerbaijan Is Likely  

Recombinomics Commentary

March 4, 2006

A top official in Azerbaijan said on Saturday a family of six people could have contracted bird flu, although it was too early to be sure.

"The preliminary diagnosis is severe pneumonia but this is a suspicious case," said Abbas Velibeyev, deputy health minister, on ATV television.

When asked if the family, which keeps chickens and has seen two children die in the last month

The description above appears to be another familial H5N1 infection with human-to-human transmission.  Two children have already died and four other family members are hospitalized.  The location of this outbreak relative to large clusters in Turkey and Iraq suggests the clusters are linked to S227N.

S227N was noted in the index case of the Turkey outbreak.  Although it was said to be missing from the isolate from the sister of the index case, it is unclear if the isolate was from mammalian cells or chicken eggs. Chicken eggs are known to select against polymorphisms which increase the affinity for human receptors, which ahs been shown for S227N.

This cluster in Azerbaijan suggests S227N is spreading in the area.  Although it has been over two months since the outbreak in Turkey was reported.  WHO and consultants are hoarding the sequences from this outbreak.

The release of these sequences should be immediate.

The hoarding of sequences by the WHO should not be tolerated. They have indicated that H5N1 is evolving by random mutations and genetic changes cannot be predicted.  The S227N change via recombination was predicted.  There is more than one way to interpret the data that WHO and consultants are hoarding.

These sequences should be released to the scientific community.  Most of the collection of samples, and isolation and sequencing of H5N1 was done with public funds and the data should be immediately released to the public.

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