Background: On 19 February 2013, the first patient infected with a novel influenza A H7N9 virus from an avian source showed symptoms of sickness. More than 349 laboratory-confirmed cases and 109 deaths have been reported in mainland China since then. Laboratory-confirmed, human-to-human H7N9 virus transmission has not been documented between individuals having close contact; however, this transmission route could not be excluded for three families. To control the spread of the avian influenza H7N9 virus, we must better understand its pathogenesis, transmissibility, and transmission routes in mammals. Studies have shown that this particular virus is transmitted by aerosols among ferrets.
Methods: To study potential transmission routes in animals with direct or close contact to other animals, we investigated these factors in a murine model.
Results: Viable H7N9 avian influenza virus was detected in the upper and lower respiratory tracts, intestine, and brain of model mice. The virus was transmissible between mice in close contact, with a higher concentration of virus found in pharyngeal and ocular secretions, and feces. All these biological materials were contagious for naïve mice.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that the possible transmission routes for the H7N9 influenza virus were through mucosal secretions and feces.