A fatal yellow fever virus infection in China: description and lessons

Emerg Microbes Infect. 2016 Jul 13;5(7):e69. doi: 10.1038/emi.2016.89.


Yellow fever (YF) is a viral disease endemic to the tropical regions of Africa and South America. An outbreak of YF has been occurring in Angola, since the beginning of 2016. In March 2016, a 32-year-old Chinese man who returned from Angola was hospitalized and diagnosed with the first case of imported YF in China. Clinical observations, blood viral RNA detection, serological testing and treatments for the patient were performed daily. The virus was isolated in Vero cells, and the complete viral genome was sequenced and analyzed using the next-generation genomic sequencing platform. The patient presented with hemorrhagic fever, jaundice and oliguria at day 3 after onset, which rapidly progressed to multisystem organ failure with extremely elevated liver, pancreatic and myocardial enzymes. The patient died despite the intensive supportive treatments that were performed. A liver biopsy showed severe and multilobular necrosis. Viral RNA was detectable throughout the clinical course of the disease. Whole-genomic sequence analysis revealed that the virus belongs to the Angola71 genotype. Although the virus has been circulating in Angola for 45 years, only 14 amino-acid substitutions and no amino-acid changes were observed in the membrane and envelope proteins compared with the virus collected in 1971. The presence of this imported YF case in China indicated that with the increase in business travel among countries, YF outbreaks in Africa can lead to the international spread of the disease. The production and use of YF vaccines is, therefore, an urgent issue.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angola / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • China
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Genome, Viral
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver / virology
  • Male
  • Multiple Organ Failure / etiology
  • Oliguria
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Travel*
  • Vero Cells
  • Yellow Fever* / diagnosis
  • Yellow Fever* / virology
  • Yellow fever virus / genetics
  • Yellow fever virus / isolation & purification


  • RNA, Viral