On March 31, 2013, the National Health and Family Planning Commission announced that human infections with a previously undescribed influenza A (H7N9) virus had occurred in Shanghai and Anhui Province, China. To investigate the possible origins of the H7N9 viruses causing these human infections, we collected 970 samples, including drinking water, soil, and cloacal and tracheal swabs of poultry from live poultry markets and poultry farms in Shanghai and Anhui Province. Twenty samples were positive for the H7N9 influenza virus. Notably, all 20 viruses were isolated from samples collected from live poultry markets in Shanghai. Phylogenetic analyses showed that the six internal genes of these novel human H7N9 viruses were derived from avian H9N2 viruses, but the ancestor of their HA and NA genes is uncertain. When we examined the phylogenetic relationship between the H7N9 isolates from live poultry markets and the viruses that caused the human infections, we found that they shared high homology across all eight gene segments. We thus identified the direct avian origin of the H7N9 influenza viruses that caused the human infections. Importantly, we observed that the H7N9 viruses isolated from humans had acquired critical mutations that made them more “human-like”. It is therefore imperative to take strong measures to control the spread of H7N9 viruses in birds and humans to prevent further threats to human health.


H7N9 influenza virus human infection virus source

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