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Human to Human H7N7 Transmission in The Netherlands

Recombinomics Commentary
September 25, 2004.

The story linked below indicates that human / human transmission of avian flu (H7N7) in The Netherlands in 2003 was more extensive than previously thought.  The H7N7 infections in humans were relatively benign, with conjunctivitis being the most common symptom.  However, testing of antibody levels in contacts showed that over half had antibodies to H7 even though most were asymptomatic.

Most common human influenza A infections involve viruses with H1, H2, or H3 coupled with N1 or N2.  The human / human transmission of H7N7 shows that re-assortment of these surface genes are not required for transmission.

Currently, WHO is monitoring H5N1 infections in Asia for re-assortment with human genes.  However, it seems that recombination with parts of genes is sufficient to confer human / human transmission.  Several of the internal genes in H7N7 isolates from The Netherlands bear a striking resemblance to genes found in H5N1 isolates from Asia.

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