A deadly strain of the bird flu virus can be transmitted between some animals through the air, scientists said Friday.
An international team of researchers found that the H7N9 strain of the virus transferred efficiently between ferrets via direct contact, but less efficiently by airborne exposure.
Pigs however were unable to transmit the virus to other pigs or to ferrets, according to the study published online by Science magazine.
Possible human-to-human transmission
Ferrets are often used as a mammalian model for possible human-to-human transmission.
There have been no documented cases of human-to-human transmission of H7N9, but the Chinese-led team concluded that "under appropriate conditions human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus may be possible."
Mainland China's H7N9 outbreak, which was first discovered in March, has spread to seven provinces, and a first case was detected in Taiwan last month.
Thirty-six people have died from contracting H7N9, according to the World Health Organisation.