A 'dog flu' may soon be able to infect humans, study indicates

The virus called H3N2 is slowly mutating into a human-compatible form.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A dog flu is mutating into a form that can infect humans..jpg
A dog flu is mutating into a form that can infect humans.


A “dog flu” virus is slowly mutating into a form that can infect people, according to a new study reported by The Telegraph last month.

The virus called H3N2 first infected dogs around 2006 and has since evolved to become a mammalian-adapted form of bird flu.

Now, a study from bird flu specialists at the China Agricultural University took into consideration swabs from more than 4,000 dogs only to discover that the virus is now showing signs of being better able to recognize human cell receptors.

“Our results showed that canines may serve as intermediates for the adaptation of avian influenza viruses to humans,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The study saw six dogs deliberately infected with each of the six known dog flu strains of H3N2. The dogs, luckily, were only mildly unwell. 

Canine virus better adapted to mammals

“The changes in the canine virus apparently are making it better adapted to transmit within mammals, as you might expect after such a long period in dogs,” Prof James Wood, head of the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge, told The Telegraph.

“The virus does not seem to pose particularly worrying health threats to dogs – one might be more concerned about the longer term pandemic potential in other species such as humans,” he added.

Prof Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, told The Telegraph that the new study showcases proof that the virus may be “creeping” towards being human-like.

“It’s a data-rich paper that surely shows that the most recent viruses (clade 5) are more adapted to mammals than was the original virus that made the leap from an avian,” he said.

“But some of this is just the virus settling down in the dog, so inevitably becoming mammalian virus-like."

The study is published in the journal eLife.

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