H6 influenza viruses pose a potential threat to human health

Guojun Wang, Guohua Deng, Jianzhong Shi, Weiyu Luo, Guoquan Zhang, Qianyi Zhang, Liling Liu, Yongping Jiang, Chengjun Li, Nongluk Sriwilaijaroen, Hiroaki Hiramatsu, Yasuo Suzuki, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, Hualan Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Influenza viruses of the H6 subtype have been isolated from wild and domestic aquatic and terrestrial avian species throughout the world since their first detection in a turkey in Massachusetts in 1965. Since 1997, H6 viruses with different neuraminidase (NA) subtypes have been detected frequently in the live poultry markets of southern China. Although sequence information has been gathered over the last few years, the H6 viruses have not been fully biologically characterized. To investigate the potential risk posed by H6 viruses to humans, here we assessed the receptor-binding preference, replication, and transmissibility in mammals of a series of H6 viruses isolated from live poultry markets in southern China from 2008 to 2011. Among the 257 H6 strains tested, 87 viruses recognized the human type receptor. Genome sequence analysis of 38 representative H6 viruses revealed 30 different genotypes, indicating that these viruses are actively circulating and reassorting in nature. Thirty-seven of 38 viruses tested in mice replicated efficiently in the lungs and some caused mild disease; none, however, were lethal. We also tested the direct contact transmission of 10 H6 viruses in guinea pigs and found that 5 viruses did not transmit to the contact animals, 3 viruses transmitted to one of the three contact animals, and 2 viruses transmitted to all three contact animals. Our study demonstrates that the H6 avian influenza viruses pose a clear threat to human health and emphasizes the need for continued surveillance and evaluation of the H6 influenza viruses circulating in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3953-3964
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


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