H5N1 avian influenza viruses circulating in early 2004 in eastern Asia appeared to be under strong purifying selection, except for the hemagglutinin (HA) and nonstructural 1 (NS1) genes, where few amino acid positions were found under positive selection pressure. To evaluate whether the widespread circulation of the H5N1 viruses in the following years was accompanied by a change in the evolution of the HA and NS1, phylogenetic and positive selection analyses were performed on 89 HA and 57 NS1 sequences. Results showed that the number of HA positively selected sites decreased compared to 2004; no selection pressure for NS1 was found. These findings suggest a possible change in the adaptation of the H5N1 virus to birds.
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Vol. 51 • No. s1