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The human respiratory tract is a major site of avian influenza A(H5N1) infection. However, many humans infected with H5N1 present with gastrointestinal tract symptoms, suggesting that this may also be a target for the virus. In this study, we demonstrated that the human gut expresses abundant avian H5N1 receptors, is readily infected ex vivo by the H5N1 virus, and produces infectious viral particles in organ culture. An autopsy colonic sample from an H5N1-infected patient showed evidence of viral antigen expression in the gut epithelium. Our results provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that H5N1 can directly target human gut tissues.

Original publication




Journal article


J Infect Dis

Publication Date





1173 - 1177


Colon, Epithelium, Humans, Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype, Influenza, Human, Intestinal Mucosa, Organ Culture Techniques, Receptors, Cell Surface, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Virus Replication