Today, The Lancet reported the first human infection with a novel reassortant of avian influenza, A H10N8 virus. Human infections with different avian influenza viruses (H5N1, H9N2, and H7N9) are of course no stranger to the world and have raised concerns about the potential of a worldwide influenza pandemic.
There are two cases. The patient a 73-year old woman was from Nanchang City in China. She presented to the hospital with fever and severe pneumonia on Nov. 30. She deteriorated rapidly, despite antibiotic and antiviral treatment, developed multiple organ failure and died 9 days after illness onset. No information is available yet on the second case. The researchers tested tracheal swabs from the patient, which were taken 7 days after illness onset, with reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, viral culture and sequence analyses. They found that the virus was a new genetic reassortment avian-origin H10N8 virus. All of the genes were of avian origin, with six internal genes derived from avian H9N2 viruses known to circulate in poultry in China. The virus isolated is designated as A/Jiangxi-Donghu/346/2013(H10N8), or JX346.
The results suggested that JX346 might originate from multiple reassortments between different avian influenza viruses. The H10 and H8 gene segments might have derived from different wild bird influenza viruses reasserted to give rise to a hypothetical H10N8 virus in wild birds, which infected poultry and then reasserted with H9N2 viruses in poultry to give rise to the novel reassortant JX346 (H10N8) virus.
The report goes on to note that the virus had a mutation in the PB2 gene that is often associated with increased virulence and adaption in mammals, which could enable the virus to be more infectious to people.
As the world celebrates Chinese New Year, many Chinese have returned to their home towns on crowded buses and trains to see family and friends…a great way to spread the flu. Stay tuned to see if any additional cases of this new flu pop up.