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According to a manuscript published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, three pandas named Ximeng, Zhangka, and Gege that live at a conservation center in Sichuan province fell ill with 2009 H1N1 influenza infections when the virus was circulating in humans in China.
|Sneezing Panda - Credit Qrpike|
The sample was tested for a variety of suspected pathogens including canine distemper virus, canine adenovirus, canine coronavirus, canine herpesvirus, and canine parainfluenza virus. RNA from the swab tested positive for HA gene of H1N1 influenza. No other pathogens were detected.
All three pandas were then treated with 75 mg of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) twice a day for five or six days. Oseltamivir is a pro-drug (it has to be metabolized by the body to be active) which prevents/slows the spread of influenza A and B virus.
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The team obtained serum samples from all three animals about three months after they were sick. They also analyzed serum samples that had been collected previous to the pandas getting sick. Ximeng's nasal swab tested positive for the 2009 H1N1 virus, which upon gene sequencing was nearly identical to the circulating human strain. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that the virus was transmitted directly to the pandas without recombination or significant adaptation.
These findings are incredibly important for panda conservationists as it raises the possibility that giant pandas may be infected with human and avian origin influenza. 2009 H1N1 had already been shown to infect a wide-range of animals including cats, dogs, ferrets, swine, and skunks.
It also shows 2009 H1N1 influenza can infect a wider range of mammals than other influenza viruses.
Lance D. Presser has a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology and currently is a Public Health Laboratorian.
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