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Avian flu antibodies in Chinese poultry workers

Chinese poultry workers had higher levels of avian flu antibodies in their blood than swine workers or members of the public who had no contact with either animals, new scientific research has found.

In a 3 year study, published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, the Chinese researchers carried out a longitudinal serologic survey on an open cohort of poultry and swine workers and the general population to assess avian influenza A virus (AIV) seroprevalence and seroincidence and virologic diversity at live poultry markets in Wuxi City, Jiangsu province.

The data, the researchers say, suggest that stronger surveillance for AIVs within live poultry markets and high-risk markets is imperative. Photo: Wikimedia
The data, the researchers say, suggest that stronger surveillance for AIVs within live poultry markets and high-risk markets is imperative. Photo: Wikimedia

Seroprevalence varied by group and over time, with overall levels of H7N9, H9N2 and H5N1 significantly higher in poultry workers than in swine workers and controls.

Of the 964 poultry workers tested, 9 (0.93%) were seropositive for subtype H7N9 virus, 18 (1.87%) for H9N2 and 18 (1.87%) for H5N1 over the study period. The researchers saw a significant increase in H5N1 seroprevalence in poultry workers in 2016 compared to the previous year but none of the participants in any of the 3 groups were seropositive for H5N6 in any of the 3 years.

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And of the 468 poultry workers followed longitudinally, 2 (0.43%), 13 (2.78%) and 7 (1.5%) seroconverted respectively. Poultry workers were more likely than controls to be infected with H9N2 and H5N1 but rates were similar with the other groups for H7N9.

The sampling detected a range of different subtypes – the report’s abstract talks of 726 AIVs (23.3%) recorded out of 3,121 samples with 10 sub-types of new genetic constellations and reassortant viruses.

The data, the researchers say, suggest that stronger surveillance for AIVs within live poultry markets and high-risk markets is imperative.

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