Infection and replication of avian influenza H5N1 virus in an infected human
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The highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses usually cause severe diseases and high mortality in infected humans. However, the tissue tropism and underlying pathogenesis of H5N1 virus infection in humans have not been clearly elucidated yet. In this study, an autopsy was conducted to better understand H5N1 virus distributions in tissues of infected humans, and whether H5N1 virus can replicate in extrapulmonary tissues. We found that the lungs had the higher viral load than the spleen, whereas no detectable viruses in tissues of heart, liver, kidney, large intestine, small intestine, or brain. Specifically, the viral load was higher in the left lung (7.1 log10 copies per ml) in relation to the right lung (5.7 log10 copies per ml), resulting in more severe pathological damage in the left lung, and lung tissues contained both positive- and negative-stranded viral RNA. However, there existed a low level of H5N1 viruses in the spleen (3.8 log10 copies per ml), with the absence of positive-stranded viral RNA. Our results indicate that replication of H5N1 viruses mainly occurs in the lungs, and the degree of lung damage is highly correlated with the viral load in the lungs. The low-load viruses in the spleen might be introduced through blood circulation or other ways.
KeywordsInfluenza virus H5N1 Replication Viral load Tissue distribution
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