Research on H7N9 virus

CNC report from Beijing
Added On April 28, 2013

Chinese scientists have found that wet bird markets might be the source of the deadly H7N9 virus that has spread through many parts of the country.

The finding marks a breakthrough in understanding the human infections with the virus, previously only found in poultry and birds.

The new strain of bird flu has sparked panic nationwide - but finally, the source is now clearer.

According to research published on Thursday by a leading international medical journal, The Lancet, led by a team from The University of Hong Kong and Zhejiang University, wet poultry markets are the likely culprit.

The researchers analyzed four unlinked patients in east China's Zhejiang Province.

...And found for the first time that the patients' virus is genetically very close to the chicken virus found in an epidemiologically linked poultry market.

Indeed, about 20% of chickens in the market were infected with the virus.

...Leading researchers to believe that wet poultry markets might be the source of human H7N9 infections.

The team also conducted a characterization of viral genomes.

...And found that the patient virus has a kind of mutation that allows the virus to adapt to a mammal host and attach to mammal host cells...

This development could bring scientists closer to finding out how the mutation the virus thrives on, can be stopped.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LI LANJUAN, Professor of Zhejiang University:
"We've already proved there is gene mutation, which explains poultry to human transmission. But if another mutation occurs, human-to-human transmission will become more likely."

So far, no person-to-person transmission has been found...

But further studies on the virus's evolution will be conducted, to stop it spreading further.

China has reported three more cases of the H7N9 bird flu, two in the eastern Jiangxi Province and one in central Hunan Province, the first case discovered there.

As of Sunday morning, the total number of human infections reported in the mainland exceeded 120. Twenty-three of the patients have died.