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More H5N1 Bird Flu Variants in China

Recombinomics Commentary

July 17, 2005

1. H5N1
This is the virus everybody knows about. Basically it is limited to domestic poultry-particularly chickens, ducks, etc. It is not transmitted to humans and does not constitute a threat to human beings.

2. H5N1 7B
This was discovered in July 2004 in Hunan, and its peculiarity is that it is also spread amongst domestic poultry, but the poultry themselves are asymptomatic, showing no symptoms. This is a contagious virus. At present it is restricted to chickens and ducks. After the poultry are infected they become carriers, but with no symptoms. Other animals, including humans, whose food is infected by the poultry develop allergic symptoms, lowered immunity, fatigue, sudden-onset heart spasms, etc.

3. H5N1 9A
This is a virus from Shantou (northern Guangdong province) in November 2004. It is a contagious and does not differ from H5N1 markedly. But the feces of the infected poultry is very unusual. The feces of chickens, ducks and pigs are emptied into fish ponds in some parts of China, and this virus severely attacks fish with particular virulence. The fish bones turn soft, but the reason is not known and needs to be tested in laboratories.

4. H5N1 L33
This is a mutation discovered in 2004. It is unique in that none of the current treatments are effective. It's almost identical to H5N1 except that none of the current drugs can treat it in domestic poultry. Under certain temperatures this virus is very virulent and can even be carried by insects, but so far there have been no human infections.

The above list is a translation of the boxun document describing 10 strains of H5N1 bird flu.  The four above are not generally associated with human infections, but can be transmitted by various migratory birds and can cause additional problems due to transmissions in food chains as well as recombination and reasortment.

7B can cause problems in humans via ingestion of contaminated poultry.  Two isolates at GenBank have come from infected duck meat exported from Shanghai to South Korea in 2001 and from Shandong to Japan in 2003. It is unclear if 7B is one of these two isolates, which were quite distinct from each other.  The more recent isolate from Japan, gave rise to two mouse brain variants with mutations in PB2.  One (MBV-2 had the E627K mutation found in all bar-headed geese isolates as well as all human flu isolates.  The other mous brain variant (MBV-1) had a novel change 12 nucleotides downstream.  This partental strain was from duck meat exported for human consumption.

9A appears to be able to infect fish in ponds where feces are dumped.  This could cause ecological problems if the infected fish are eaten by migratory birds.  More study is need on the transmission from fish to fish, birds, or humans.  This of course could lead to an ecological disaster.

L33 also appears to have the potential to cause serious problems.  The ability to infect insects are be temperature driven could explain the sudden increases in patients in Guandong and Vietnam.  L33 is resistant to treatment (its not clear if this refers to anti-virals or vaccines) and has been found in bar-headed geese.  The bar-headed goose situation appears to be extremely complex.  The text of the Nature and Science publications focus on 8 similar isolates which appear to correspond to RK7.  However the geese also appear to be infected with L33 and RW4.

The triple infections in the geese is similar to data coming out of South Korea where swine are infected with three viruses also (WSN/33, H1N2, and H9N2).  These triple infections can give rise to more reassortment and recombination.  The infections in South Korea have not been reported and the WHO investigation is beyond scandalous.

Similarly, the WHO investigation of the H5N1 at Qinghai Lake is also deficient.  WHO has issued statements that they had no reason not to believe claims by China that there were no human cases.  However, the Nature report clearly shows H5N1 infections in birds in Fujian, Hunnan, Yunan, and Guangdong provinces, yet none have been reported by China in 2005.  Similarly, China indicated that only two patients were tested at Qinghai Lake.  Both were negative, but the specificity of the probes was uncertain.  Moreover, 600 additional people who were exposed were not tested because they had dispersed.  It is unclear if the dispersal was via ashes from cremation.

Instead of aggressively investing Qinghai, WHO focused on efforts to generate data discounting the positive data on mild cases in northern Vietnam.  The boxun reports on isolates from China describe R12 which produces mild flu-like symptoms in people, strongly supporting the western blot and PCR data indicating that similar H5N1 infections in humans has happened in Vietnam.

In summary, the above list extends the number of H5N1 variants detected in China,  Because of dual or triple infections, new variants are rapidly arising and the WHO monitoring is more focused on discounting the data than insisting that it be publicly acknowledged and samples released to third parties.

China is limiting research, publication, and distribution of the data and WHO is issuing press releases offering reassurances using unscientific analysis which selects useful data and discounts data that conflicts with conclusions that allow WHO to maintain that the 2005 pandemic is a stage 3 instead of the true stage, which is clearly at 5 or 6.

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