(HealthDay News) – The influenza virus H7N9 isolated from poultry and humans can bind human airway receptors and can transmit between ferrets by respiratory droplets, according to research published online July 18 in Science.

Qianyi Zhang, from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Harbin, and colleagues conducted active surveillance in animals to identify the source of human H7N9 infection. In addition, they used animal models to assess the virulence and transmission potential for H7N9 viruses isolated from birds and humans.

The researchers found that the H7N9 viruses isolated from birds and humans were closely related genetically. The viruses bound to human airway receptors and some were able to bind to avian airway receptors. Viruses isolated from birds did not cause disease in chickens, ducks, or mice. However, up to 30% weight loss was seen in mice infected with viruses isolated from humans. One human-isolated virus was highly transmissible in ferrets via respiratory droplets.

“Our findings indicate nothing to reduce the concern that these viruses can transmit between humans,” the authors write.

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