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Bird Flu Spread in Sulawesi and Central Java Indonesia

Recombinomics Commentary
March 25, 2005

>>  As of Wednesday, bird flu was continuing to spread in South Sulawesi, affecting around 128,000 chickens so far in four regencies: Sidenreng Rappang (Sidrap), Wajo, Soppeng and Maros.

The biggest outbreak occurred in Sidrap regency, some 200 kilometers north of Makassar, where the virus has infected 101,400 chickens.

"We've conducted DNA analyses and the strains of the virus in South Sulawesi and other parts of Indonesia are different from the strains in Thailand and Hong Kong. Bird flu in Indonesia has not resulted in bird-to-human transmission.

In the Central Java town of Boyolali, thousands of quails have reportedly died in Klego district over the last 10 days due to a suspected outbreak of bird flu.

According to Ministry of Agriculture data, bird flu has killed 16.23 million birds in the country, with 8.17 million of them in Central Java, the worst-hit province.<<

The above report indicates that bird flu continues to spread in Indonesia, and the effectiveness of the vaccine program to control the virus is not obvious.

The comment on the DNA analysis appears to be similar to earlier statements of assurance on transmission from bird to humans.  However, it seems that the more recent sequencing confirms sequences from 2003 and 2004.  Those H5N1 sequences were placed in the Z genotype, as were sequences from Thailand and Vietnam.  The Hong Kong sequences from patients in 2003 were Z+ and those from 1997 were quite distinct form any of the recent H5N1 isolates.

The recent isolates have regional specific polymorphisms.  There are polymorphisms that are just found in Vietnam and Thailand.  Indonesia has its own set of polymorphisms, but like other Asian countries, its recent isolates are more closely related to Vietnam and Thailand than to isolates from patients in Hong Kong.  Thus there is no molecular reason to assume that Indonesian isolates can't infect humans.

The only data supporting this conclusion is the lack of any reported cases.  However, most of the H5N1 poultry infections in Indonesia described above have not been reported to FAO.

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