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Characterization of An Avian Influenza Virus of Subtype H7N2 Isolated from Chickens in Northern China

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An H7N2 avian influenza virus was isolated from chickens during routine surveillance in northern China in 2002. To understand the origin of this virus, we completely sequenced its genome. The PB1, PA, HA, and M genes of this virus were highly homologous with those of the wild bird virus A/Africa starling/Eng-Q/983/79 (H7N1). The NP and NS genes were closely related to those of two other wild bird viruses isolated 30 years ago. The closest relatives of the PB2 and NA genes of the virus were those of the A/swine/Germany/2/81 (H1NI) and A/Leningrad/134/57 (H2N2), respectively. Animal inoculation tests showed that the virus cannot replicate efficiently in chickens. However, after intranasal inoculation, the virus induced 20% weight loss and replicated well in the lungs of mice. The virus was also recovered from the hearts and brains of the mice. These results suggest that the influenza virus isolated in chickens in northern China in 2002 originated in wild birds and may pose a threat for both avian species and mammalian hosts.

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This study was supported by the National Key Animal Disease Control Program of the Ministry of Agriculture of China and the Chinese National Key Basic Research Program (973) 2005CB523005 and 2005CB521000, and Chinese National Natural Science Foundation 30440008. Support for Dr. Robert G. Webster was provided by the NIAID Contract AI95357 (National Institute of Health), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC). We acknowledge Dr. Denis Alexander of the OIE Reference Laboratory, Veterinary Laboratory Agency for providing the avian influenza virus A/Africa starling/Eng-Q/983/79. We thank Dr. Janet Davies for editorial assistance and Ms. Carol Walsh for administrative assistance.

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Correspondence to Hualan Chen.

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Li, Y., Li, C., Liu, L. et al. Characterization of An Avian Influenza Virus of Subtype H7N2 Isolated from Chickens in Northern China. Virus Genes 33, 117–122 (2006).

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