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Trends Microbiol. 2012 Jan;20(1):11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Dec 5.

The changing nature of avian influenza A virus (H5N1).

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Department of Virology, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases (BIKEN), Osaka University, Osaka, Japan.


Highly pathogenic avian influenza A virus subtype H5N1 has been endemic in some bird species since its emergence in 1996 and its ecology, genetics and antigenic properties have continued to evolve. This has allowed diverse virus strains to emerge in endemic areas with altered receptor specificity, including a new H5 sublineage with enhanced binding affinity to the human-type receptor. The pandemic potential of H5N1 viruses is alarming and may be increasing. We review here the complex dynamics and changing nature of the H5N1 virus that may contribute to the emergence of pandemic strains.

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