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Medical News & Perspectives
March 8, 2006

Avian Flu Researchers Make Strides

JAMA. 2006;295(10):1107-1108. doi:10.1001/jama.295.10.1107

As human H5N1 avian influenza virus infections moved beyond Southeast Asia to Turkey and Iraq in early 2006, scientists continued to tackle the disease on many fronts. Although the infection has largely affected poultry or migratory birds—the World Health Organization has reported only 160 confirmed cases in humans since the first case was diagnosed in 2003—research efforts are fueled by fears that the virus will become more adapted to humans and cause pandemic disease.

One research team reported that H5N1 can infect cats and spread by potentially novel routes within and between mammals. Others designed and tested live attenuated virus vaccines in mice and chickens. Yet another group has performed the most complete analysis of the genetics of bird flu viruses, identifying candidate genes that may determine virulence.