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H5N1 Bird Flu Detected in Stone Marten in Germany

Recombinomics Commentary

March 9, 2006

The Friedrich-Loeffler Institute confirmed the presence of the virus in the marten, a carnivorous mammal with brown fur and a white throat patch. The animal was found sick and apparently dying on the island of Ruegen in northern Germany on March 2.

The above comments indicate H5N1 in mammals may be wide spread.  Tests on experimental mice have shown that H5N1 has increased its ability to efficiently infect mammals.  These experimental observations were confirmed when H5N1 was found in fatal infections of wild and domestic cats in Thailand.  These observations were extended further with experimental infections of cats.  The lab cats showed bird flu symptoms and could pass H5N1 from cat to cat.

The above experiments were based on Asian isolates of H5N1.  Recently, H5N1 was detected in cats in Germany and Austria.  H5N1 was found in fatally infected cats as well as those that had recovered.  Similarly, H5N1 antibodies were detected in healthy dogs and cats in Thailand.

These data suggest that H5N1 can produce a spectrum of illnesses in cats.  The detection of H5N1 in a stone marten indicates a number of mammalian species may be vulnerable.  There have also been reports of dog infections in Thailand as well as dead dogs and foxes near H5N1 infected birds.  These data suggest that ingestion of H5N1 infected birds can horizontally transmit the infection.  This would be supported by media reports of dead hyenas in Nigeria.

As H5N1 spreads and infects additional birds, the sick and dying birds appear to be capable of passing the infection to resident carnivores.

These data indicate the surveillance for H5N1 should extend well beyond wild birds.

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