Biological characterization of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses that infected humans in Egypt in 2014-2015
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© 2016, Springer-Verlag Wien. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 influenza viruses emerged as a human pathogen in 1997 with expected potential to undergo sustained human-to-human transmission and pandemic viral spread. HPAI H5N1 is endemic in Egyptian poultry and has caused sporadic human infection. The first outbreak in early 2006 was caused by clade 2.2 viruses that rapidly evolved genetically and antigenically. A sharp increase in the number of human cases was reported in Egypt in the 2014/2015 season. In this study, we analyzed and characterized three isolates of HPAI H5N1 viruses isolated from infected humans in Egypt in 2014/2015. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the nucleotide sequences of eight segments of the three isolates were clustered with those of members of clade 188.8.131.52. We also found that the human isolates from 2014/2015 had a slight, non-significant difference in their affinity for human-like sialic acid receptors. In contrast, they showed significant differences in their replication kinetics in MDCK, MDCK-SIAT, and A549 cells as well as in embryonated chicken eggs. An antiviral bioassay study revealed that all of the isolates were susceptible to amantadine. Therefore, further investigation and monitoring is required to correlate the genetic and/or antigenic changes of the emerging HPAI H5N1 viruses with possible alteration in their characteristics and their potential to become a further threat to public health.
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