The zoonotic outbreak of H7N9 subtype avian influenza virus that occurred in eastern China in the spring of 2013 resulted in 135 confirmed human cases, 44 of which were lethal. Sequencing of the viral genome revealed a number of molecular signatures associated with virulence or transmission in mammals. We report here that, in the guinea pig model, a human isolate of novel H7N9 influenza virus, A/Anhui/1/2013 (An/13), is highly dissimilar to an H7N1 avian isolate and instead behaves similarly to a human seasonal strain in several respects. An/13 was found to have a low 50% infectious dose, grow to high titers in the upper respiratory tract, and transmit efficiently among cocaged guinea pigs. The pH of fusion of the hemagglutinin (HA) and the binding of virus to fixed guinea pig tissues were also examined. The An/13 HA displayed a relatively elevated pH of fusion characteristic of many avian strains, and An/13 resembled avian viruses in terms of attachment to tissues. One important difference was seen between An/13 and both the H3N2 human and the H7N1 avian viruses: when inoculated intranasally at a high dose, only the An/13 virus led to productive infection of the lower respiratory tract of guinea pigs. In sum, An/13 was found to retain fusion and attachment properties of an avian influenza virus but displayed robust growth and contact transmission in the guinea pig model atypical of avian strains and indicative of mammalian adaptation.,
Journal of Virology
This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id fp7/278976 - ANTIcipating the Global Onset of Novel Epidemics (ANTIGONE)
Department of Virology

Gabbard, J.D, Dlugolenski, D, van Riel, D.A.J, Marshall, N, Galloway, S.E, Howerth, E.W, … Steel, J. (2014). Novel H7N9 influenza virus shows low infectious dose, high growth rate, and efficient contact transmission in the Guinea pig model. Journal of Virology, 88(3), 1502–1512. doi:10.1128/JVI.02959-13