Open Access Study protocol

Prospective study of avian influenza transmission to humans in egypt

Ghazi Kayali1*, Richard J Webby1, Xiaoping Xiong2, Lobna S Sherif3, Esmat A El-Ghafar3 and Mohamed A Ali4

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, USA

3 Medical Division, the National Research Centre, Cairo 12311, Egypt

4 Virology Laboratory, Environmental Research Division, the National Research Centre, Cairo 12311, Egypt

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:685  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-685

Published: 9 November 2010



The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus remains a public health threat and continues to cause outbreaks among poultry as well as human infections. Since its appearance, the virus has spread to numerous geographic areas and is now considered endemic in Egypt and other countries. Most studies on human H5N1 cases were conducted to investigate outbreak situations and were not designed to address fundamental questions about the epidemiology of human infection with H5N1 viruses. Our objective for this study is to answer these questions by estimating the prevalence and incidence rates of human cases and determine associated risk and protective factors in areas where H5N1 viruses are endemic.


We designed a 3-year prospective cohort study of 1000 individuals of various exposure levels to poultry in Egypt. At onset, we will collect sera to estimate baseline antibody titers against AI viruses H4-H16. Two follow-up visits are scheduled at 1-year intervals following initial enrollment. At follow-up, we will also collect sera to measure changes in antibody titers over time. Thus, annual prevalence rates as well as incidence rates of infection will be calculated. At each visit, exposure and other data will be collected using a specifically tailored questionnaire. This data will be used to measure risk and protective factors associated with infection. Subjects will be asked to contact the study team any time they have influenza-like illness (ILI). In this case, the study team will verify infection by rapid influenza A test and obtain swabs from the subject's contacts to isolate and characterize viruses causing acute infection.


Epidemiologic studies at the influenza human-animal interface are rare, hence many questions concerning transmission, severity, and extent of infection at the population level remain unanswered. We believe that our study will help tackle and clarify some of these issues.