In a concerning development, a bird flu strain has improved its capacity to infect human cells.
The finding “has to be regarded with the utmost caution,” according to the scientists who discovered the discovery on the ground.
A schoolgirl in Cambodia passed away last week from the H5N1 avian flu virus.
Before infecting the girl, the virus appeared to have “gone through” another person and picked up the additional mutations, according to scientists.
In 2023, an 11-year-old girl from the province of Prey Veng became the first H5N1 casualty. Although he tested positive for the virus, her father has not yet shown any symptoms.
The genetic sequence of the girl’s virus was decoded by a team led by Dr. Erik Karlsson at the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia. He issued a warning that it was distinct from bird virus genetic sequences.
There are some signs that this virus has passed through a human, he told Sky News.
Every time these viruses infect a new host, they undergo some alterations that may help them multiply more effectively or possibly better adhere to the cells in our respiratory tract.
He continued, stating the virus was fundamentally “still a bird virus,” and that it had not yet fully adapted to humans.
The strain is unlikely to lead to a significant outbreak in its current state. It would need to undergo a mutation to enable binding to a receptor present on cells in the nose in order to propagate widely.
The girl had contracted the 18.104.22.168c strain of H5N1, which is native to wild birds and poultry in Cambodia, according to genetic testing.
This is distinct from the 22.214.171.124b strain, which has swiftly spread over the world and infected numerous birds and mammals, but Dr. Karlsson insisted that this should not be used as a reason to minimize the threat.
As a result of a virus infecting a different species, he continued, “This was zoonotic spillover and needs to be treated with the utmost caution.”
We don’t really know what could create the problem tomorrow, he said, urging everyone to continue monitoring the virus. “Something may be occurring here in Cambodia and something may be happening on the other side of the planet in South America.”
Human mortality from H5N1 is estimated to be 50%. Just 870 cases have ever been reported among humans worldwide.
For the past year, the 126.96.36.199b strain has wiped out the majority of the world’s avian population.