WEDNESDAY, Feb. 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Chinese scientists reporting on the first confirmed human death from a new bird flu virus say the strain has gene mutations that could increase its ability to infect people.
An elderly woman living in Nanchang City, China, recently died from infection with a new strain of H10N8 bird flu virus. Testing revealed the virus contained genes from H9N2 viruses circulating in poultry in China, according to the report published Feb. 4 in the journal The Lancet.
"A genetic analysis of the H10N8 virus shows a virus that is distinct from previously reported H10N8 viruses having evolved some genetic characteristics that may allow it to replicate efficiently in humans," study author Dr. Yuelong Shu, from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a journal news release. "Notably, H9N2 virus provided the internal genes not only for the H10N8 virus, but also for H7N9 and H5N1 viruses."
On Nov. 30, the 73-year-old woman arrived at the hospital with fever and severe pneumonia. She received antibiotic and antiviral treatments but developed multiple organ failure. She died nine days later.
Investigators discovered that the woman had visited a live poultry market a few days before she developed symptoms. This suggests that the incubation time for the new strain of H10N8 is about four days, which is similar to other bird flu virus infections, the researchers said.
However, no evidence of the new H10N8 virus was found in samples gathered from the poultry market, and the source of the infection remains unknown, the scientists said.
This new strain of H10N8 was previously found in a water sample taken from Dongting Lake in Hunan province in 2007. It was also found at a live poultry market in Guangdong province in 2012.
The danger posed by this virus should not be underestimated, warned study co-author Dr. Mingbin Liu, of the Nanchang City Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"A second case of H10N8 was identified in Jiangxi Province on Jan. 26," Liu said in the news release. "This is of great concern because it reveals that the H10N8 virus has continued to circulate and may cause more human infections in the future."
The World Health Organization has more about bird flu.