Editor's Summary

16 November 2006

Pandemic potential

The fact that the H5N1 bird flu virus circulating in Asia, Europe and Africa is unable to attach to human-type cell receptors has helped to prevent it from causing a worldwide epidemic of a human variant of the disease. Now a study of H5N1 isolates from some of the few humans that have been infected (from Vietnam and Thailand) has identified two mutations in a viral haemagglutinin that allow it to bind to both human and avian receptors. These mutations might be of use as molecular markers for assessing the pandemic potential of H5N1 field isolates.

LetterHaemagglutinin mutations responsible for the binding of H5N1 influenza A viruses to human-type receptors

Shinya Yamada, Yasuo Suzuki, Takashi Suzuki, Mai Q. Le, Chairul A. Nidom, Yuko Sakai-Tagawa, Yukiko Muramoto, Mutsumi Ito, Maki Kiso, Taisuke Horimoto, Kyoko Shinya, Toshihiko Sawada, Makoto Kiso, Taiichi Usui, Takeomi Murata, Yipu Lin, Alan Hay, Lesley F. Haire, David J. Stevens, Rupert J. Russell, Steven J. Gamblin, John J. Skehel and Yoshihiro Kawaoka