H5N1 Sparrows In China
Have Human Polymorphisms
By Dr. Henry L. Niman, PhD
The four recent whole genome sequences of Henan, China tree sparrows are cause for concern. The two surface proteins are HPAI H5N1 and the multibaisc HA cleavage site generates a string selective advantage that allows for wide distribution of the additional 6 genes. These genes have many polymorphisms found in H9N2 and H3N2 isolates.
Many of these polymorphism are in 2003/2004 isolates from South Korea, indicating the sequences are not limited to the terrestrial birds in Henan. The genes also have considerable amounts of recombination, which is why they were not well defined in the Journal of Virology paper.
These mammalian sequences are of considerable concern, because they are also appearing as novel sequences in human H3N2 isolates as well as canine H3N8 isolates.
As H5N1 wild bird flu sequences come into the area, new recombinants will be formed and distributed. This may account for the limited success using animal vaccines to control the outbreaks in eastern China. Since the Henan isolates do not produce symptoms in ducks, they may be much more widespread than the tree sparrow population in Henan.
Avian influenza sequences are clearly recombining and reassorting at a high rate. The amount of sequence data in Asia has been limited, especially this year, as the recombination rate appears to be accelerating in association with increased genetic diversity and an expanded host range of H5N1.
Release of more sequence data from isolates linked to the recent outbreaks in China as well as earlier collections from indigenous populations of birds worldwide, would be useful
Henry L. Niman, PhD
Recombinomics, Inc. Founder and President, Henry L Niman earned a PhD at the University of Southern California in 1978. His dissertation focused on feline retroviral expression in tumors in domestic cats.
He took a postdoctoral position at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation where he developed monoclonal antibody technology. He fused monoclonal antibody and synthetic peptide technologies and accepted a staff position at Scripps.
In 1982, he developed the flu monoclonal antibody, which is widely used throughout the pharmaceutical, biotech, and research industries in epitope tagging techniques. He also produced a broad panel of monoclonal antibodies against synthetic peptides of oncogenes and growth factors. These monoclonal antibodies were distributed worldwide to researchers by the National Cancer Institute. The antibodies identified novel related proteins which correlated with clinical parameters.
This technology was used to form ProgenX, a cancer diagnostic company that became Ligand Pharmaceuticals. Dr Niman subsequently identified protein expression patterns at the University of Pittsburgh. More recently, he became interested in infectious diseases while at Harvard Medical School. He then founded Recombinomics and discovered how viruses rapidly evolve. These latest findings are the subject of recent patent filings.
c. 2005 All Rights Reserved
Patricia A. Doyle, DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agriculture Economics
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