The institute unveiled a research agenda detailing objectives to understand the virus’ biology and advance detection, treatment, and prevention strategies.

RT’s Three Key Takeaways:

  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has released a plan to advance basic research on H5N1 influenza and translate findings into practical strategies and interventions. The agenda focuses on understanding the virus’ biology, developing prevention strategies such as vaccines, advancing treatments like antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, and improving detection methods.
  • H5N1 influenza has been circulating since 2003, affecting wild birds, poultry, and recently over 50 animal species, with nearly 900 human cases reported primarily among those in close contact with infected birds. A notable outbreak occurred in late March 2024 among dairy cows in Texas. Although the virus hasn’t shown the ability to spread person-to-person, it is closely monitored for pandemic preparedness.
  • NIAID’s agenda aligns with its role in the federal public health response to the US H5N1 influenza outbreak. The institute says it will will leverage its domestic and international research infrastructures to address the current outbreak and potential human-to-human transmission.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has released its plan for advancing H5N1 influenza basic research and translating those findings into strategies and interventions that can benefit people. 

The research agenda focuses on four key objectives: increasing understanding of the biology of H5N1 viruses and the factors that influence their ability to transmit and cause disease; developing and evaluating prevention strategies, such as vaccines; advancing existing and novel treatments, including antivirals and monoclonal antibodies; and supporting strategies for detecting H5N1 virus. 

The agenda aligns with the NIAID’s role in the federal public health response to the US outbreak of H5N1 influenza in people, dairy cows, and other animals.

H5N1 Background

Since 2003, H5N1 influenza viruses have circulated in 23 countries, primarily affecting wild birds and poultry resulting in nearly 900 reported human cases, primarily among people who have had close contact with infected birds. In the past few years, however, a highly pathogenic avian influenza virus called HPAI H5N1 has spread to infect more than 50 animal species. 

In late March 2024, an HPAI H5N1 outbreak was reported among dairy cows in Texas. Although the virus so far has not shown genetic evidence of acquiring the ability to spread from person-to-person, public health officials are closely monitoring the outbreak as part of overarching pandemic preparedness efforts.

Research Agenda

The NIAID H5N1 research agenda builds on the institute’s longstanding influenza research efforts. It addresses the current outbreak in US dairy cows including potential human-to-human transmission of H5N1 influenza viruses. NIAID will leverage both its domestic and international research infrastructures to achieve the plan’s objectives.

Photo caption: Three influenza A (H5N1/bird flu) virus particles (rod-shaped). Note: Layout incorporates two CDC transmission electron micrographs that have been inverted, repositioned, and colorized by NIAID. Scale has been modified.

Photo credit: NIAID