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Avian flu subtype could lead to pandemic, researchers say
If contracted by humans, the H3N8 AIV has been found to cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and could be fatal.
The risk of human transmission could increase.

Researchers have warned that a mutation in a subtype of the avian flu virus could lead to an epidemic or pandemic.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with the China Agricultural University in Beijing, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

They discovered that the H3N8 avian influenza virus (AIV), endemic in poultry farms in China, is mutating in a way which could increase the risk of the disease passing to humans.

The scientists used laboratory mice and ferrets as models for human infection, which identified several adaptive changes which caused severe animal infections and made it transmissible in the air through respiratory droplets.

This means that human populations could be vulnerable to infection by the newly mammalian adapted H3N8 AIV at an epidemic or pandemic proportion.

If contracted by humans, the H3N8 AIV has been found to cause acute respiratory distress syndrome and could be fatal.

The first case of H3N8 AIV infecting a human was identified in April 2022 when a five-year-old boy in China contracted the virus, suffering only mild symptoms.

Including this, the virus has now caused two confirmed human cases in 2022, followed by a fatal infection in 2023.

However the mutated virus has not yet overcome acid resistance to influenza virus which, if achieved, could give it transmissibility and adaptability in mammals and humans.

The researchers stress that further research should be conducted to closely monitor how such viruses in poultry and humans mutate.

Professor Kin-Chow Chang, of the University of Nottingham, said: “We demonstrate that an avian H3N8 virus isolated from a patient with severe pneumonia replicated efficiently in human bronchial and lung epithelial cells, was extremely harmful in its effects in laboratory mammalian hosts and could be passed on through respiratory droplets,”

He continued: “Human populations, even when vaccinated against human H3N2 virus, appear immunologically naive to emerging mammalian-adapted H3N8 AIVs and could be vulnerable to infection at epidemic or pandemic proportion.”

The full study can be found in the journal Cell.

Image © Shutterstock

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."