If it’s not A, B, or C, it could now be D. The International Committee of Taxonomy of Viruses approved naming a new virus, influenza D, after South Dakota State University researchers identified cattle as the primary host for the disease. The committee officially announced a new genus, Orthomyxovirdae, with a single species, Influenza D virus, because of its distinctness from other influenza types — A, B, and C.
SDSU alumnus Ben Hause first isolated the virus from an infected pig in 2011, but later found that cattle were more susceptible. Under the leadership of SDSU professor Feng Li, Hause identified and characterized the new virus as part of his doctoral research.
The SDSU researchers secured a National Institutes of Health grant for $400,000 to study the biology, genetics, and evolution of the new virus. So far the research group has determined that influenza D is spread only through direct contact. Antibodies from the virus have been identified in blood samples from sheep and goats, but the strain does not pose a risk to poultry. Studies are underway to compare the virulence among the bovine and swine influenza D strains and whether D, which has 50 percent similarity to human influenza C, can also cause problems in humans.
In an SDSU release, Radhey Kaushik, professor and assistant head of the biology and microbiology department, said that “the virus has not been shown to be pathogenic in humans.” However he further explained “if the virus can undergo reassortment in combination with a closely related human influenza virus, it may be able to form a new strain that could pose more of a threat to humans.”