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Science. 2006 Apr 21;312(5772):399. Epub 2006 Mar 23.

H5N1 Virus Attachment to Lower Respiratory Tract.

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Department of Virology, Erasmus Medical Center, 3015 GE Rotterdam, Netherlands.


Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (H5N1) may cause severe lower respiratory tract (LRT) disease in humans. However, the LRT cells to which the virus attaches are unknown for both humans and other mammals. We show here that H5N1 virus attached predominantly to type II pneumocytes, alveolar macrophages, and nonciliated bronchiolar cells in the human LRT, and this pattern was most closely mirrored in cat and ferret tissues. These findings may explain, at least in part, the localization and severity of H5N1 viral pneumonia in humans. They also identify the cat and the ferret as suitable experimental animals based on this criterion.

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