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H5N1 Bird Flu Case in Denmark

Recombinomics Commentary

April 15, 2006

A 25-year-old Dane has been transferred to Copenhagen's Royal hospital after testing positive for bird flu in a local clinic, the Danish news agency Ritzau reported today.

On the basis of blood tests in the local hospital of Nykoebing, southern Denmark, the man was diagnosed with bird flu, and late yesterday transferred urgently to the Royal hospital, one of two hospitals in Denmark authorised to treat bird flu. Ritzau said it was unknown where the man may have contracted the virus.

The above comments indicate H5N1 continues to increase the number of versions that can infect humans.  The full sequence of H5N1 from a buzzard in Denmark was released.  It has many similarities with isolates from Astrakhan, which have North American and human sequences.  Those isolates form two distinct clades, and the Denmark isolate was most like the smaller clade.  However, those isolates have not previously been shown to cause human infections. 

The first confirmed human case of H5N1 cause by the Qinghai strain was in Turkey.  However, cases were soon reported in Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Egypt.  Sequences from human cases in Iraq and Egypt did not contain HA S227N, which is a change in the receptor binding domain that increases affinity for human cells.  However, the isolate from Iraq did have a change, N186S, near the receptor binding domain.  H5N1 flying into Europe could combine with H1N1 in swine and produce G228S, another change associated with increased affinity.

More H5N1 is expected to migrate into western Europe and northeastern North America from Africa via the East Atlantic flyway.  New sequences recombining with sequences that can cause H5N1 infections in humans, will likely create new problems.

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