A wide range of influenza A viruses of pigs and birds have infected humans in the last decade, sometimes with severe clinical consequences. Each of these so-called zoonotic infections provides an opportunity for virus adaptation to the new host. Fortunately, most of these human infections do not yield viruses with the ability of sustained human-to-human transmission. However, animal influenza viruses have acquired the ability of sustained transmission between humans to cause pandemics on rare occasions in the past, and therefore, influenza virus zoonoses continue to represent threats to public health. Numerous recent studies have shed new light on the mechanisms of adaptation and transmission of avian and swine influenza A viruses in mammals. In particular, several studies provided insights into the genetic and phenotypic traits of influenza A viruses that may determine airborne transmission. Here, we summarize recent studies on molecular determinants of virulence and adaptation of animal influenza A virus and discuss the phenotypic traits associated with airborne transmission of newly emerging influenza A viruses. Increased understanding of the determinants and mechanisms of virulence and transmission may aid in assessing the risks posed by animal influenza viruses to human health, and preparedness for such risks.

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doi.org/10.1038/emi.2014.9, hdl.handle.net/1765/69504
Emerging Microbes and Infections
Department of Virology

Schrauwen, E.J.A, & Fouchier, R.A.M. (2014). Host adaptation and transmission of influenza A viruses in mammals. Emerging Microbes and Infections (Vol. 3). doi:10.1038/emi.2014.9