The Lancet Infectious Diseases
Sep 2013 Volume 13 Number 9 p725 – 822
The emergence of influenza A H7N9 in human beings 16 years after influenza A H5N1: a tale of two cities
Kelvin KW To FRCPath a †, Jasper FW Chan FRCPath a †, Honglin Chen PhD a c, Lanjuan Li MD b c, Dr Kwok-Yung Yuen MD a c
Infection with either influenza A H5N1 virus in 1997 or avian influenza A H7N9 virus in 2013 caused severe pneumonia that did not respond to typical or atypical antimicrobial treatment, and resulted in high mortality. Both viruses are reassortants with internal genes derived from avian influenza A H9N2 viruses that circulate in Asian poultry. Both viruses have genetic markers of mammalian adaptation in their haemagglutinin and polymerase PB2 subunits, which enhanced binding to human-type receptors and improved replication in mammals, respectively. Hong Kong (affected by H5N1 in 1997) and Shanghai (affected by H7N9 in 2013) are two rapidly flourishing cosmopolitan megacities that were increasing in human population and poultry consumption before the outbreaks. Both cities are located along the avian migratory route at the Pearl River delta and Yangtze River delta. Whether the widespread use of the H5N1 vaccine in east Asia—with suboptimum biosecurity measures in live poultry markets and farms—predisposed to the emergence of H7N9 or other virus subtypes needs further investigation. Why H7N9 seems to be more readily transmitted from poultry to people than H5N1 is still unclear.