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Dangerous Unique H5N1 Mutation In Ukraine?

Recombinomics Commentary
December 9, 2005

The mutation of the bird flu virus discovered in the Crimea, an autonomy on the Black Sea, is unlike any other that has been found in the world and is extremely dangerous for humans, Ukraine's ICTV channel reported Friday.

The above comment is cause for concern.  More details would be useful.  Breaking news via media reports is notoriously unreliable, but the above comments appear to be quite specific.  Other reports have indicated the sero-type is H5N1, so it is unlikely that the change is reassortment with an H or N human gene, which has not been described previously for H5N1.  The virulence of the H5N1 in the birds also suggests that the H has retained the polybasic cleavage site characteristic of Asian versions of HPAI H5N1.

The change sounds more like a unique polymorphism and is most likely to be on the H or N, which are the two genes most likely to have been sequenced first.

The potential acquisition of S227N on HA exists because H9N2 contains the appropriate donor sequence and H9N2 is endemic in the Middle East.  However, that polymorphisms has been detected previously in H5N1 from Hong Kong residents who visited Fujian Province in 2003.

Of greater concern would be acquisition of some or most of the mammalian receptor binding domain.  H5N1 wild bird flu sequences have acquired mammalian polymorphism found predominantly in Europe in the past.  Since HPAI H5N1 has not been previously reported to have been in Europe before the latest serious of infections beginning in August, the potential for acquiring novel sequences is high.

In the past Russia has been very forthcoming with sequence data, which has been included in the OIE reports.  Moreover, the have been prompt in depositing sequences at GenBank, including partial sequences from Novosibirsk as well as more complete sequences from Tula.

More deteail on the unique mutation would be useful.


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