Transmission of Avian Influenza Viruses to Humans: Viral Receptor Specificity and Distribution in Human Airways

  • Yoshihiro Kawaoka
  • Kyoko Shinya

Direct transmission of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses to humans was not considered a major risk prior to 1997. In 1997, however, H5N1 HPAI viruses were transmitted to humans in Hong Kong. Six of 18 infected individuals died, marking the first fatal infection of humans with wholly avian influenza viruses (Claas et al., 1998a,b; Subbarao & Shaw, 2000). Since then, H5N1 HPAI viruses have spread throughout southeast Asia and recently into Europe and Africa. To date, more than 200 individuals have been infected and about half have succumbed to the infection (World Health Organization, 2006). Despite the continued transmission of H5N1 HPAI viruses to humans, these viruses have not yet acquired the ability to spread efficiently among humans. Here, we discuss the factors that lead to human infections with H5N1 HPAI viruses as they relate to the binding of the virus to its cellular receptor.


Influenza Virus Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus Avian Influenza Virus Human Airway 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yoshihiro Kawaoka
    • 1
  • Kyoko Shinya
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Pathological SciencesUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.The International Center for Medical Research and TreatmentKobe UniversityJapan

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