Subtype H6 influenza A viruses (IAVs) are commonly detected in wild birds and domestic poultry and can infect humans. In 2010, a H6N6 virus emerged in southern China, and since then, it has caused sporadic infections among swine. We show that this virus binds to α2,6-linked and α2,3-linked sialic acids. Mutations at residues 222 (alanine to valine) and 228 (glycine to serine) of the virus hemagglutinin (HA) affected its receptor-binding properties. Experiments showed that the virus has limited transmissibility between ferrets through direct contact or through inhalation of infectious aerosolized droplets. The internal genes of the influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus, which is prevalent in swine worldwide, increases the replication efficiency of H6N6 IAV in the lower respiratory tract of ferrets but not its transmissibility between ferrets. These findings suggest H6N6 swine IAV (SIV) currently poses a moderate risk to public health, but its evolution and spread should be closely monitored.
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© 2017 The Author(s).