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J Virol. 1984 Sep;51(3):863-5.

Are seals frequently infected with avian influenza viruses?


Influenza A virus isolates of the H4N5 subtype (which has previously been detected only in birds) were recovered from harbor seals dying of viral pneumonia on the New England coast from June 1982 through March 1983. When these isolates were compared with other mammalian and avian viruses in serological assays and RNA-RNA competitive hybridization, it was found that the seal viruses were most closely related antigenically and genetically to recent avian virus strains and were readily distinguishable from mammalian viruses, including H7N7 isolates recovered from seals in 1980. Unlike any previous isolates from mammals, these recent seal viruses replicate in the intestinal tracts of ducks, a characteristic of avian viruses. The association of avian viruses with influenza outbreaks in seals suggests that transmission of avian viruses to seals is occurring in nature. Potentially, this may be an example of the adaptation of avian viruses to mammals, which would represent an intermediate step in the evolution of new mammalian strains.

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