Influenza A viruses are enveloped viruses belonging to the family Orthomyxoviridae that encompasses four more genera: Influenza B, Influenza C, Isavirus and Thogotovirus. Type A viruses belong to the only genus that is highly infectious to a variety of mammalian and avian species. They are divided into subtypes based on two surface glycoproteins, the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). So far, 16 HA and 9 NA subtypes have been identified worldwide, making a possible combination of 144 subtypes between both proteins. Generally, individual viruses are host-specific, however, interspecies transmission of influenza A viruses is not uncommon. All of the HA and NA subtypes have been isolated from wild birds; however, infections in humans and other mammalian species are limited to a few subtypes. The replication of individual influenza A virus in a specific host is dependent on many factors including, viral proteins, host system and environmental conditions. In this review, the key findings that contribute to the transmission of influenza A viruses amongst different species are summarized.
(Received January 20 2010)
(Accepted April 05 2010)
p1 Current address: Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 40 Convent Drive MSC 3005, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.