Letters

Gain-of-Function Experiments on H7N9

Science  07 Aug 2013:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1243325

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Abstract

Since the end of March 2013, avian a influenza viruses of the H7N9 subtype have caused more than 130 human cases of infection in China, many of which were severe, resulting in 43 fatalities. Although this A(H7N9) virus outbreak is now under control, the virus (or one with similar properties) could reemerge as winter approaches. To better assess the pandemic threat posed by A(H7N9) viruses, NIAID/NIH Centers of Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) investigators and other expert laboratories in China and elsewhere have characterized the wild-type avian A(H7N9) viruses in terms of host range, virulence, and transmission, and are evaluating the effectiveness of antiviral drugs and vaccine candidates. However, to fully assess the potential risk associated with these novel viruses, there is a need for additional research including experiments that may be classified as “gain-of-function” (GOF). Here, we outline the aspects of the current situation that most urgently require additional research, our proposed studies, and risk-mitigation strategies.

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