Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Zoonotic origins of human metapneumovirus : a journey from birds to humans

Metapneumoviruses, members of the family Pneumoviridae, have been identified in birds (avian metapneumoviruses; AMPV's) and humans (human metapneumoviruses; HMPV's). AMPV and HMPV are closely related viruses with a similar genomic organization and cause respiratory tract illnesses in birds and humans, respectively. AMPV can be classified into four subgroups, A-D, and is the etiological agent of turkey rhinotracheitis and swollen head syndrome in chickens. Epidemiological studies have indicated that AMPV also circulates in wild bird species which may act as reservoir hosts for novel subtypes. HMPV was first discovered in 2001, but retrospective studies have shown that HMPV has been circulating in humans for at least 50 years. AMPV subgroup C is more closely related to HMPV than to any other AMPV subgroup, suggesting that HMPV has evolved from AMPV-C following zoonotic transfer. In this review, we present a historical perspective on the discovery of metapneumoviruses and discuss the host tropism, pathogenicity, and molecular characteristics of the different AMPV and HMPV subgroups to provide increased focus on the necessity to better understand the evolutionary pathways through which HMPV emerged as a seasonal endemic human respiratory virus.

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