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H5N1 Wild Bird Flu Migrating Into Southern Siberia In Russia?

Recombinomics Commentary

August 23, 2005

There is still a risk of new outbreaks of the disease appearing in domestic birds. This is most likely to occur on 20 August (migration of birds from northern to southern Siberia).

The above warning in the latest OIE report from Russia has had support in recent media stories which describe wild bird deaths or H5N1 antibodies in areas to the north of the main path of H5N1 associated deaths in southern Siberia and northern Kazahkstan See August map).

The outbreaks were first reported in late July in the Chany Lake region in Novosibirsk in Russia and the adjacent Pavlodar region in northern Kazakhstan (see July map).  This month the reported cases have exploded and moved decidedly toward Europe.

The latest reports in Tomsk, Kanti-Mansi, and Sverdlovsk suggest migrating birds from northern Siberia are coming into the southern Siberia region and sparking new reports in wild birds.

As noted in the OIE report, soon the birds in southern Siberia will migrate to warmer regions, threatening to significantly increase the geographical reach of H5N1 into areqas where cases have not been previously reported.

Although bio-security measures have limited the spread of H5N1 on the ground, the long range migrating birds can move H5N1 as far as 1000 miles in less than 24 hours.  Movement of H5N1 into regions where H5N1 is endemic, such as southeast Asia, will generate new dual infections, leading to recombination and new genes. 

The potential for the recombined H5N1 to broaden ite host range and achieve efficient human-to-human transmission is cause for concern.


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