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H5N1 Infected Cat Indentified in Indonesia

Recombinomics Commentary

June 19, 2006

A CAT has been found infected with the deadly H5N1 virus in Indonesia, in the first such case in the country.

Steven Bjorge, Medical Officer for Communicable Disease of the World Health Organisation said the cat was infected after having eaten contaminated birds.

"We have evidence from one cat in Indonesia that has already been infected by this virus," he told Jakarta's Foreign Correspondents' Club.

The above description of an H5N1 bird flu infected cat in Indonesia would appear to be the cat described by Andrew Jeremijenko.  That cat isolate has been sequenced and it is closely related to the human isolates from West Java, which included Tangerang, Jakarta and regions to the east of Jakarta such and Bekasi and Bandung.

Although these isolates are closely related to bird isolates from Indonesia, they have a novel cleavage site, RESRRKKR.  This sequence is in the human and cat isolates, but has not been reported in bird isolates.  The H5N1 bird isolates in Indonesia have the common H5N1 cleavage site RERRRKKR, indicating that they were not a source of the human or cat infections.  Thus, the above comment that the cat infection was due to consumption of a contaminated bird is curious.  If true, the bird isolate should have the novel cleavage site.

Recently new bird sequences from H5N1 infected birds on Bali were released.  They too did not have the novel Indonesian HA cleavage site, although one did have the Qinghai cleavage site, GERRRKKR. This sequence has been found in almost all Qinghai isolates, including those from humans.  In China, human cases have yet another cleavage site, RERRRK_R, which is missing a K.  This sequence has also been found in birds isolates from Fujian province, and more recently from Laos and Malaysia.  Most other human cases (including isolates from Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia) have the wild type H5N1 sequence, first identified in a goose from Guangdong in 1996.

The correspondence is also found in H5N1 cat isolates from other countries.  The HA cleavage site sequence in the cat isolate from Thailand. A/cat/Thailand/KU-02/04, was RERRRKKR, match human and poultry isolates from the region.  The cat isolate in Iraq, A/domestic cat/Iraq/820/2006, had a sequence of GERRRKKR, matching human and poultry isolates in Iraq.  However, the cat H5N1 cleavage site in Indonesia only matches the human isolates.  Reported bird H5N1 cleavage sites have been limited to the two examples above, RERRRKKR and GERRRKKR.

Thus, the linkage of human, cat, and poultry cases in other countries strongly suggest that the RESRRKKR is not an adaptation that happens after human infections, but instead reflects the sequence of the infecting H5N1. 

Thus far all of the reported RESRRKKR sequences have been from mammals.

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