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Study shows potential of avian influenza to infect humans
Avian influenza viruses isolated from Pakistan are able to escape vaccine immunity and adapt to infect humans.
Finding could lead to reduced vaccine efficiency

Avian influenza viruses isolated from Pakistan are able to escape vaccine immunity and adapt to infect humans, according to new research. This could lead to reduced vaccine efficiency and the possibility of human outbreaks.

The study led by The Pirbright Institute found that small changes to a surface protein of the H9N2 influenza A virus (haemagglutinin), enables the mutated virus to enter human cells.

In most cases, influenza viruses that infect humans and chickens use different host cell receptors in the early attachment stage.

“In this study, we demonstrated the mutant can bind to human-type cell receptors, but its preference for avian-like receptors remains,” explained Professor Munir Iqbal, head of the Avian Influenza group at Pirbright.

“H9N2 viruses cause moderate illness and death rates in domestic poultry and do not cause severe disease in humans, but the capability of an H9N2 avian influenza virus to bind to human-like receptors raises concern for potential human transmission.”

Researchers are now working to ascertain how this mutant H9N2 avian influenza A virus could generate a mutation that hits the right balance whilst retaining its ability to bind to human-like receptors.

This information will allow better screening of circulating avian influenza viruses for traits that may allow them to infect humans, providing early warning to their pandemic potential.

The study, Association of Increased Receptor-Binding Avidity of Influenza A(H9N2) Viruses with Escape from Antibody-Based Immunity and Enhanced Zoonotic Potential, is published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.  

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ZSL London Zoo shares animal X-rays

News Story 1
 A selection of X-ray images showing the inner workings of frogs, turtles, snakes and geckos have been shared by veterinary surgeons at ZSL London Zoo.

Taken as part of a routine health check, the images have been shared as part of ‘Vets in Action’ week - a hand’s on role-playing experience for children that explores the life of a zoo vet.

ZSL London Zoo veterinary nurse Heather Mackintosh said: “It’s great to be able to share the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Zoo to keep our residents in tip-top condition – and our visitors are always amazed to find out more about their favourite animals.” 

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Vets in developing nations given free access to BSAVA’s online library

BSAVA has teamed up with the WSAVA, the WSAVA Foundation and FECAVA to offer vets in developing nations free access to its online library.

The Association’s ‘Foundation Collection’ is comprised of more than 70 hours of articles, lectures and book chapters covering topics such as basic handling skills, working on a budget and emergency triage. Some of the countries set to benefit include Albania, Georgia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania.

Nicolette Hayward, of BSAVA International Affairs Committee said: “Our mission is to promote excellence in small animal practice through education and science, so we are delighted to work with WSAVA, the WSAVA Foundation and FECAVA to share these high-quality resources to the veterinary profession in low and middle-income countries.”