Diverse biological characteristics and varied virulence of H7N9 from Wave
There was a substantial increase with infections of H7N9 avian influenza virus (AIV) in humans during Wave 5 (2016-2017). To investigate whether H7N9 had become more infectious/transmissible and pathogenic overall, we characterized the receptor binding and experimentally infected ferrets with highly pathogenic (HP)- and low pathogenic (LP)-H7N9 isolates selected from Wave 5, and compared their pathogenicity and transmissibility with a Wave 1 isolate from 2013. Studies show that A/Anhui/1/2013 (LP) and A/Chicken/Heyuan/16876/2016 (HP) were highly virulent in ferrets, A/Guangdong/Th008/2017 (HP) and A/Chicken/Huizhou/HZ-3/2017 (HP) had moderate virulence and A/Shenzhen/Th001/2016 (LP) was of low virulence in ferrets. Transmission was observed only in ferrets infected with A/Anhui/1/2013 and A/Chicken/Heyuan/16876/2016, consistent with the idea that sicker ferrets had a higher probability to transmit virus to naive animals. Given the Varied virulence and transmissibility observed in circulating H7N9 viruses from Wave 5, we conclude that the current public health risk of H7N9 has not substantially increased compared to 2013 and the circulating viruses are quite diverse.
H7N9; ferret; influenza; pathogenicity; receptor; transmissibility