Determinants of virulence of influenza A virus
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- Schrauwen, E.J.A., de Graaf, M., Herfst, S. et al. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis (2014) 33: 479. doi:10.1007/s10096-013-1984-8
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Influenza A viruses cause yearly seasonal epidemics and occasional global pandemics in humans. In the last century, four human influenza A virus pandemics have occurred. Occasionally, influenza A viruses that circulate in other species cross the species barrier and infect humans. Virus reassortment (i.e. mixing of gene segments of multiple viruses) and the accumulation of mutations contribute to the emergence of new influenza A virus variants. Fortunately, most of these variants do not have the ability to spread among humans and subsequently cause a pandemic. In this review, we focus on the threat of animal influenza A viruses which have shown the ability to infect humans. In addition, genetic factors which could alter the virulence of influenza A viruses are discussed. The identification and characterisation of these factors may provide insights into genetic traits which change virulence and help us to understand which genetic determinants are of importance for the pandemic potential of animal influenza A viruses.