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H5N1 Bird Flu Fatality in Xinjiang China
Recombinomics Commentary

August 14, 2006

China has confirmed a new human case of bird flu, a 62-year-old farmer who died last month, state media said.

The victim from the northwestern region of Xinjiang fell ill on June 19 and died on July 12, Xinhua news agency said, citing the health ministry.

The above comments raise concerns about the spread of H5N1 bird flu into western China and Russia.   There is also concern regarding reporting delays.  Today's report is almost two months after the patients showed symptoms.

The date and location of this case is important.  Prior reports from China have been from the east.  This is the first human case in Xinjiang province.  The province has had many outbreaks in the past that coincided with migration to and from Qinghai Lake in China and Chany Lake in Novosibirsk, include June of this year..

In the past, the H5N1 from these regions was the Qinghai strain of H5N1.  However, human cases in China involve the Fujian strain, which is related to Qinghai, but distinct.  Recent sequence data from Hong Kong show widespread detection in many wild birds in Hong Kong.  The sequence was also detected in Laos and Malaysia.

Now polymorphisms are appearing of Qinghai isolates in Russia, indicating more recombination and acquisition of the polymorphisms. 

New sequences create new problems, an the recombination in H5N1 has been significant, WHO press releases not withstanding.

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