The direct transmission of H5N1 influenza A viruses from chickens to humans in Hong Kong in 1997 emphasized the need to have information on the pathogenesis of avian influenza virus infection in mammals. H5N1 influenza viruses isolated from patients during the incident killed experimentally infected mice. The principal lesions of the mice were broncho-interstitial pneumonia and nonsuppurative encephalitis. Infectious viruses and/or viral antigens were detected in the brain as well as in the trigeminal and vagal ganglia but not in the blood of the mice. These findings suggest that the virus reached the brain through the vagus and/or trigeminal nerves following replication in the respiratory mucosa. The results imply that neurotropism of the H5N1 virus in mice is a novel characteristic in the pathogenesis of infection by human influenza virus isolates.