Avian influenza A viruses are the ancestral origin of all human influenza viruses. The outbreak of highly pathogenic (HP) avian H5N1 in Hong Kong in 1997 highlighted the potential of these viruses to infect and cause severe disease in humans. Since 1999, HP H5N1 viruses were isolated several times from domestic poultry in Asia. In 2001, a HP H5N1 virus, A/Duck/Anyang/AVL-1/2001 (Dk/Anyang), was isolated from imported frozen duck meat in Korea. Because of this novel source of HP H5N1 virus isolation, concerns were raised about the potential for human exposure and infection; we therefore compared the Dk/Anyang virus with HP H5N1 viruses isolated from humans in 1997 in terms of antigenicity and pathogenicity for mammals. At high doses, Dk/Anyang virus caused up to 50% mortality in BALB/c mice, was isolated from the brains and lymphoid organs of mice, and caused lymphopenia. Overall Dk/Anyang virus was substantially less pathogenic for mice than the H5N1 virus isolated from a fatal human case in 1997. Likewise, Dk/Anyang virus was apathogenic for ferrets. Dk/Anyang virus was antigenically distinguishable by hemagglutination-inhibition (HI) assay from human H5N1 viruses isolated in 1997 and avian H5N1 viruses isolated in 2001 in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, prior infection with Dk/Anyang virus protected mice from death after secondary infection with HP human H5N1 viruses. These results indicate that compared with HP human H5N1 viruses, Dk/Anyang virus is substantially less pathogenic for mammalian species. Nevertheless, the novel source of isolation of this avian H5N1 virus must be considered when evaluating the potential risk to public health.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.