Healthy, Bird Flu Infected Chickens In Chinese Markets

by Medindia Content Team on  March 13, 2006 at 11:16 AM Bird Flu News
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Healthy, Bird Flu Infected Chickens In Chinese Markets
Researchers in Hong Kong and China have identified the deadly H5N1 virus in geese, ducks and healthy chickens in the wet markets of Southern China, sparking fears of bird flu pandemic.

It has been known that waterfowl represents natural hosts of the bird flu virus. This however is the first time that large-scale asymptomatic bird flu infection has been detected among seemingly healthy chickens. Infected chickens usually die within 24 hours of the infection.

The research team headed by Guan Yi, Microbiologist, University of Hong Kong, analyzed the faecal and other samples obtained from healthy birds in poultry markets, located in Southern China, from January 2004 to June 2005. Surprisingly, 1.8% of ducks, 1.9% of geese, 0.26% of chickens and 0.46% of pheasants and quail were found to harbor the H5N1 virus.

'This means out of every 100 birds in wet markets, one is positive and infected with the virus. They look healthy but they can infect others and they can kill people,' said Guan Yi, the study author.

This finding highlights that the potentially dangerous infection may be prevalent among more people than previously thought. This would make the detection of asymptomatic bird flu infection, more difficult. The results of this study can be found in the February issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So far, 10-bird flu related mortalities have been reported in China. Most of these cases have occurred in places where H5N1 outbreaks had not been reported, posing doubts about these isolated bird flu cases. Following this trend, it was postulated that healthy looking, yet infected chickens could transmit the virus. This has indeed turned out to be true.

Although China has been involved in mass vaccination of poultry, ever since the virus was isolated in Guangdong province in 1996 (Southern China), the situation has not improved. Perhaps the fact that China houses the world's biggest population of chickens, can be given as an excuse for ineffective bird flu control measures.

In view of the above risk, it is high time that the Chinese health officials had a closer look at the quality of the bird flu vaccine, locally produced in China.

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Our Avian Influenza Research Team in IPB Bogor Indonesia succeed to identify the presence of AIV among wild cats catched from wet market around Bogor. But no virus can be detected in domestic cats. This research is still progress in order to find out the source of infection of avian flu in human. Until now, the information about this is still very limitted. The role of mammals such as cats, dogs as well as pigs as sources of AI infection to human must be studied in high priority.


We have the same results about the present of avian influenza virus in very healthy birds (ducks, geese as well as chickens)using RT-PCR technique, without the birds showed specific antibody in their sera (blood). This clearly indicated the role of birds (back yard farm, especially water fowls) as significant reservoir of the AIV. The results wer done in Kalimantan and Sumatera Indonesia by the Faculty of veterinary Medicine, IPB Bogor, Indonesia


Now we are trying to develope the strategy to comabta bird flu in human with passive immunization using IgY specific against H5N1 virus. IgY is produced in yolk egg, by injecting the layer chickens with approriate vaccine (reverse genetic vaccine H5N1, local isolate). We believe that before the AI vaccine is found, the passive immunization is reliable alternative and we can do it right now.


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