Bird flu virus H7N9 in the stool

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Avian influenza virus H7N9 detected in stool samples

Since the first detection of infection with the deadly bird flu virus H7N9 in China in late March, 45 people have died from the new type of pathogen, according to the Chinese health authorities. A total of 134 cases of H7N9 infection in mainland China have been confirmed, said director of the national health authority, Yu Wang. Despite intensive research, "there are still many unknown aspects of the H7N9 avian influenza virus, including the source of the virus, the routes of infection and the mutation," said Wang Yu. In a recent study, scientists led by Yuen Kwok-Yun from the University of Hong Kong have now demonstrated that the pathogens can also be detected in patient stool samples and could possibly be passed on from person to person in this way.

Although there has long been a suspicion that human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus is possible, there is as yet no evidence that the pathogen has been passed on personally. The research team led by microbiologist Yuen Kwok-Yung has now published a study in the journal "Clinical Infectious Diseases", which proves that stool samples can also contain the H7N9 virus from infected people. The researchers examined stool, urine and blood samples as well as the sputum and smear of the nasopharynx mucous membranes of twelve patients who had to be treated in the intensive care unit for infection with the avian influenza virus. Six of the patients died from the effects of the infection. A post mortem biopsy of the lungs, liver, kidney, spleen, bone marrow and heart was also performed on them.

H7N9 viruses contaminated more than two thirds of stool samples
The researchers made some surprising discoveries in the course of their investigations. For example, the H7N9 virus was detectable in four of the six stool samples (67 percent) from the deceased. The pathogens were also found in the stool of two survivors (33 percent). In addition, there was a significantly higher viral load in the sputum (sputum) of the infected than in the smear directly from the nasopharynx mucosa. The tests of urine, blood and cerebral fluid were negative. No avian influenza viruses were found here. Further studies must now check whether an interpersonal transmission of the pathogens via the sputum or contaminated stool is possible. The director of the Chinese health authority comes to the conclusion that "in particular the future development of the new bird flu virus is still unclear". The risks of an influenza pandemic should not be underestimated here, Wang emphasized. The study leader Yuen Kwok-Yung also sees the risk of a further increase in infections in the winter of this year. (fp)

Also read about bird flu:
Disturbing experiments with avian flu viruses

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