Via Emerging Infectious Diseases, a letter whose authors include Zhong Nanshan and Malik Peiris: Ahead of Print -Genetic Characterization of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A(H5N6) Virus, Guangdong, China.
To the Editor: Since the first detection of the influenza A(H5N1) virus in geese in China during 1996 (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h5n1-virus.htm), H5 subtype viruses have continued to reassort and evolve, giving rise to multiple virus clades and gene constellations.
Recently, clade 22.214.171.124 viruses have shown a predilection for genetic reassortment, giving rise to H5N2, H5N5, H5N6, and H5N8 virus subtypes, and have become globally widespread, causing infections in wild birds or poultry elsewhere in Asia, and in Europe and North America (1–3).
The H5N6 subtype viruses have circulated in China since 2013 and have been mainly identified in ducks or chickens in the southern (Jiangxi, Guangdong) or western (Sichuan) areas (4,5). Two lineages of H5N6 viruses with distant genetic background were found among the H5N6 viruses isolated in China (5).
In China, there have been 3 cases of H5N6 virus infection among humans, causing 2 deaths. We recently reported the clinical characteristics and progression of a patient infected by the H5N6 virus in Guangzhou City, China, who was the second reported case-patient infected with this subtype (6). After having contact with poultry, he began to manifest an influenza-like illness on December 3, 2014, and progressed to a primary viral pneumonia.
The H5N6 virus A/Guangzhou/39715/2014 (GenBank accession nos. KP765785–KP765792) was isolated from a throat swab specimen collected on day 8 of his illness by inoculation into 9–11-day-old, specific pathogen-free embryonated chicken eggs. He recovered from his infection and was discharged from the hospital on day 58.
Multiple sequence alignments showed that the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes of A/Guangzhou/39715/2014 shared the highest nucleotide identity with A/chicken/Dongguan/2690/2013 (H5N6) (99.4% and 98.3%, respectively) (Technical Appendix[PDF - 2.20 MB - 9 pages] 1).
All internal genes were also closely related to A/chicken/Dongguan/2690/2013 (H5N6), ranging from 98.5% nucleotide identity for the polymerase acidic (PA) gene and 100.0% for the matrix (M) gene. The genome segments were also 98.2%–99.7% identical to A/duck/Guangdong/GD012014 and 98.3%–99.4% identical to A/chicken/Laos/LPQ001/2014, which caused outbreaks in domestic ducks and poultry, respectively, indicating that these viruses have the same genotype.