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Avian Flu Outbreak In Seals Poses Threat to Humans

A new study in mBio reports that a postmortem genetic analysis of 162 New England seals reveals infection by an avian H3N8 influenza A virus. The virus has several mutations that the researchers believe make it adaptable to mammalian hosts, including the ability to agglutinate in human erythrocytes with SAα-2,6 receptors and a “ D701N mutation in the viral PB2 protein, previously reported in highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza viruses infecting people.” The researchers conclude, “the emergence of new strains of influenza virus is always of great public concern, especially when the infection of a new mammalian host has the potential to result in a widespread outbreak of disease.”

Read it in mBio.