Quantifying within-host #diversity of #H5N1 #influenza viruses in #humans and #poultry in #Cambodia (PLOS Pathog., abstract)

[Source: PLOS Pathogens, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]


Quantifying within-host diversity of H5N1 influenza viruses in humans and poultry in Cambodia

Louise H. Moncla , Trevor Bedford, Philippe Dussart, Srey Viseth Horm, Sareth Rith, Philippe Buchy, Erik A. Karlsson, Lifeng Li, Yongmei Liu, Huachen Zhu, Yi Guan, Thomas C. Friedrich, Paul F. Horwood


Published: January 17, 2020 / DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008191 / This is an uncorrected proof.



Avian influenza viruses (AIVs) periodically cross species barriers and infect humans. The likelihood that an AIV will evolve mammalian transmissibility depends on acquiring and selecting mutations during spillover, but data from natural infection is limited. We analyze deep sequencing data from infected humans and domestic ducks in Cambodia to examine how H5N1 viruses evolve during spillover. Overall, viral populations in both species are predominated by low-frequency (<10%) variation shaped by purifying selection and genetic drift, and half of the variants detected within-host are never detected on the H5N1 virus phylogeny. However, we do detect a subset of mutations linked to human receptor binding and replication (PB2 E627K, HA A150V, and HA Q238L) that arose in multiple, independent humans. PB2 E627K and HA A150V were also enriched along phylogenetic branches leading to human infections, suggesting that they are likely human-adaptive. Our data show that H5N1 viruses generate putative human-adapting mutations during natural spillover infection, many of which are detected at >5% frequency within-host. However, short infection times, genetic drift, and purifying selection likely restrict their ability to evolve extensively during a single infection. Applying evolutionary methods to sequence data, we reveal a detailed view of H5N1 virus adaptive potential, and develop a foundation for studying host-adaptation in other zoonotic viruses.


Author summary

H5N1 avian influenza viruses can cross species barriers and cause severe disease in humans. H5N1 viruses currently cannot replicate and transmit efficiently among humans, but animal infection studies and modeling experiments have suggested that human adaptation may require only a few mutations. However, data from natural spillover infection has been limited, posing a challenge for risk assessment. Here, we analyze a unique dataset of deep sequence data from H5N1 virus-infected humans and domestic ducks in Cambodia. We find that well-known markers of human receptor binding and replication arise in multiple, independent humans. We also find that 3 mutations detected within-host are enriched along phylogenetic branches leading to human infections, suggesting that they are likely human-adapting. However, we also show that within-host evolution in both humans and ducks are shaped heavily by purifying selection and genetic drift, and that a large fraction of within-host variation is never detected on the H5N1 phylogeny. Taken together, our data show that H5N1 viruses do generate human-adapting mutations during natural infection. However, short infection times, purifying selection, and genetic drift may severely limit how much H5N1 viruses can evolve during the course of a single infection.


Citation: Moncla LH, Bedford T, Dussart P, Horm SV, Rith S, Buchy P, et al. (2020) Quantifying within-host diversity of H5N1 influenza viruses in humans and poultry in Cambodia. PLoS Pathog 16(1): e1008191. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008191

Editor: Wendy S. Barclay, Imperial College London, UNITED KINGDOM

Received: July 8, 2019; Accepted: November 4, 2019; Published: January 17, 2020

Copyright: © 2020 Moncla et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All raw sequence data are available in the SRA under accession number PRJNA547644 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sra/?term=PRJNA547644). All code used to analyze the data, as well as data files with within-host variant calls and phylogenetic trees are available at https://github.com/blab/h5n1-cambodia.

Funding: The study was funded by the US Agency for International Development (grant No. AID-442-G-14-00005). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: Dr. Philippe Buchy is a former Head of Virology at Institut Pasteur du Cambodge and is currently an employee of GSK Vaccines, Singapore. The other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Keywords: Avian Influenza, H5N1, Human, Poultry, Cambodia.


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Giuseppe Michieli

I am an Italian blogger, active since 2005 with main focus on emerging infectious diseases such as avian influenza, SARS, antibiotics resistance, and many other global Health issues. Other fields of interest are: climate change, global warming, geological and biological sciences. My activity consists mainly in collection and analysis of news, public services updates, confronting sources and making decision about what are the 'signals' of an impending crisis (an outbreak, for example). When a signal is detected, I follow traces during the entire course of an event. I started in 2005 my blog ''A TIME'S MEMORY'', now with more than 40,000 posts and 3 millions of web interactions. Subsequently I added an Italian Language blog, then discontinued because of very low traffic and interest. I contributed for seven years to a public forum (FluTrackers.com) in the midst of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, I left the site to continue alone my data tracking job.