Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are now endemic in many Asian countries, resulting in repeated outbreaks in poultry and increased cases of human infection. The immediate precursor of these HPAI viruses is believed to be A/goose/Guangdong/1/96 (Gs/GD)-like H5N1 HPAI viruses first detected in Guangdong, China, in 1996. From 2000 onwards, many novel reassortant H5N1 influenza viruses or genotypes have emerged in southern China. However, precursors of the Gs/GD-like viruses and their subsequent reassortants have not been fully determined. Here we characterize low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) H5 subtype viruses isolated from poultry and migratory birds in southern China and Europe from the 1970s to the 2000s. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that Gs/GD-like virus was likely derived from an LPAI H5 virus in migratory birds. However, its variants arose from multiple reassortments between Gs/GD-like virus and viruses from migratory birds or with those Eurasian viruses isolated in the 1970s. It is of note that unlike HPAI H5N1 viruses, those recent LPAI H5 viruses have not become established in aquatic or terrestrial poultry. Phylogenetic analyses revealed the dynamic nature of the influenza virus gene pool in Eurasia with repeated transmissions between the eastern and western extremities of the continent. The data also show reassortment between influenza viruses from domestic and migratory birds in this region that has contributed to the expanded diversity of the influenza virus gene pool among poultry in Eurasia.
There has been multiple evidence that domestic poultry may act as a vessel for the generation of novel influenza A viruses. In this study, we have analyzed the evolution and pathogenicity of 4 H5N2 avian influenza viruses isolated from apparently healthy poultry from H5N1 virus endemic areas in China. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that two of these viruses, A/duck/Eastern China/1111/2011 (DK/EC/1111/11) and A/goose/Eastern China/1112/2011 (GS/EC/1112/11) were derived from reassortment events in which clade 2.3.4 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses acquired novel neuraminidase and nonstructural protein genes. Another two isolates, A/chicken/Hebei/1102/2010 (CK/HB/1102/10) and A/duck/Hebei/0908/2009 (DK/HB/0908/09), possess hemagglutinin (HA) gene belong to clade 7 H5 viruses and other genes from endemic H9N2 viruses, or from viruses of various subtypes of the natural gene pool. All of these H5N2 isolates bear characteristic sequences of HPAI virus at the cleavage site of HA, and animal experiments indicated that all of these viruses but DK/HB/0908/09 is highly pathogenic to chickens. In particular, DK/EC/1111/11 and GS/EC/1112/11 are also highly pathogenic to ducks and moderately pathogenic to mice. All of these 4 viruses were able to replicate in domestic ducks and mice without prior adaptation. The emergence of these novel H5N2 viruses adds more evidence for the active evolution of H5 viruses in Asia. The maintenance of the highly pathogenic phenotype of some of these viruses even after reassortment with a new NA subtypes, their ability to replicate and transmit in domestic poultry, and the pathogenicity in the mammalian mouse model, highlight the potential threat posed by these viruses to both veterinary and public health.
H9N2 influenza viruses have become established in terrestrial poultry in different Asian countries over the last 2 decades. Our previous study demonstrated that quail harbor increasingly diverse novel H9N2 reassortants, including both Chicken/Beijing/1/94 (Ck/Bei-like) and Quail/Hong Kong/G1/97 (G1-like) viruses. However, since 1999, the genesis and evolution of H9N2 viruses in different types of poultry have not been investigated systematically. In the present study, H9N2 viruses isolated from chickens, ducks, and other minor poultry species were characterized genetically and antigenically. Our findings demonstrate that Ck/Bei-like H9N2 viruses have been introduced into many different types of poultry in southern China, including quail, partridges, chukar, pheasant, guinea fowl, and domestic ducks, while G1-like viruses were commonly detected in quail, less frequently detected in other minor poultry species, and not detected in chickens and ducks. Genetic analysis revealed 35 genotypes of H9N2 viruses, including 14 novel genotypes that have not been recognized before. Our results also suggested that two-way interspecies transmission exists between different types of poultry. Our study demonstrates that the long-term cocirculation of multiple virus lineages (e.g., H5N1 and H9N2 viruses) in different types of poultry has facilitated the frequent reassortment events that are mostly responsible for the current great genetic diversity in H9N2 and H5N1 influenza viruses in this region. This situation favors the emergence of influenza viruses with pandemic potential.
H9N2 influenza A viruses have undergone extensive reassortments in different host species, and could lead to the epidemics or pandemics with the potential emergence of novel viruses.
To understand the genetic and pathogenic features of early and current circulating H9N2 viruses, 15 representative H9N2 viruses isolated from diseased chickens in northern China between 1998 and 2010 were characterized and compared with all Chinese H9N2 viruses available in the NCBI database. Then, the representative viruses of different genotypes were selected to study the pathogenicity in mice with the aim to investigate the adaptation and the potential pathogenicity of the novel H9N2 reassortants to mammals.
Our results demonstrated that most of the 15 isolates were reassortants and generated four novel genotypes (B62-B65), which incorporated the gene segments from Eurasian H9N2 lineage, North American H9N2 branch, and H5N1 viruses. It was noteworthy that the newly identified genotype B65 has been prevalent in China since 2007, and more importantly, different H9N2 influenza viruses displayed a diverse pathogenicity to mice. The isolates of the 2008-2010 epidemic (genotypes B55 and B65) were lowly infectious, while two representative viruses of genotypes B0 and G2 isolated from the late 1990s were highly pathogenic to mice. In addition, Ck/SD/LY-1/08 (genotype 63, containing H5N1-like NP and PA genes) was able to replicate well in mouse lungs with high virus titers but caused mild clinical signs.
Several lines of evidence indicated that the H9N2 influenza viruses constantly change their genetics and pathogenicity. Thus, the genetic evolution of H9N2 viruses and their pathogenicity to mammals should be closely monitored to prevent the emergence of novel pandemic viruses.
avian influenza virus; H9N2; reassortant; genotype; pathogenicity
Multiple reassortment events between different subtypes of endemic avian influenza viruses have increased the genomic diversity of influenza viruses circulating in poultry in southern China. Gene exchange from the natural gene pool to poultry has contributed to this increase in genetic diversity. However, the role of domestic ducks as an interface between the natural gene pool and terrestrial poultry in the influenza virus ecosystem has not been fully characterized. Here we phylogenetically and antigenically analyzed 170 H6 viruses isolated from domestic ducks from 2000 to 2005 in southern China, which contains the largest population of domestic ducks in the world. Three distinct hemagglutinin lineages were identified. Group I contained the majority of isolates with a single internal gene complex and was endemic in domestic ducks in Guangdong from the late 1990s onward. Group II was derived from reassortment events in which the surface genes of group I viruses were replaced with novel H6 and N2 genes. Group III represented H6 viruses that undergo frequent reassortment with multiple virus subtypes from the natural gene pool. Surprisingly, H6 viruses endemic in domestic ducks and terrestrial poultry seldom reassort, but gene exchanges between viruses from domestic ducks and migratory ducks occurred throughout the surveillance period. These findings suggest that domestic ducks in southern China mediate the interaction of viruses between different gene pools and facilitate the generation of novel influenza virus variants circulating in poultry.
A current view of the emergence of pandemic influenza viruses envisages a gene flow from the aquatic avian reservoir to humans via reassortment in pigs, the hypothetical “mixing vessel.” Understanding arising from recent H5N1 influenza outbreaks in Hong Kong since 1997 and the isolation of avian H9N2 virus from humans raises alternative options for the emergence of a new pandemic virus. Here we report that H9N2 influenza viruses established in terrestrial poultry in southern China are transmitted back to domestic ducks, in which the viruses generate multiple reassortants. These novel H9N2 viruses are double or even triple reassortants that have amino acid signatures in their hemagglutinin, indicating their potential to directly infect humans. Some of them contain gene segments that are closely related to those of A/Hong Kong/156/97 (H5N1/97, H5N1) or A/Quail/Hong Kong/G1/97 (G1-like, H9N2). More importantly, some of their internal genes are closely related to those of novel H5N1 viruses isolated during the outbreak in Hong Kong in 2001. This study reveals a two-way transmission of influenza virus between terrestrial and aquatic birds that facilitates the generation of novel reassortant H9N2 influenza viruses. Such reassortants may directly or indirectly play a role in the emergence of the next pandemic virus.
Avian influenza viruses of the H9N2 subtype have seriously affected the poultry industry of the Far and Middle East since the mid-1990s and are considered one of the most likely candidates to cause a new influenza pandemic in humans. To understand the genesis and epidemiology of these viruses, we investigated the spatial and evolutionary dynamics of complete genome sequences of H9N2 viruses circulating in nine Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries from 1998 to 2010. We identified four distinct and cocirculating groups (A, B, C, and D), each of which has undergone widespread inter- and intrasubtype reassortments, leading to the generation of viruses with unknown biological properties. Our analysis also suggested that eastern Asia served as the major source for H9N2 gene segments in the Middle East and Central Asia and that in this geographic region within-country evolution played a more important role in shaping viral genetic diversity than migration between countries. The genetic variability identified among the H9N2 viruses was associated with specific amino acid substitutions that are believed to result in increased transmissibility in mammals, as well as resistance to antiviral drugs. Our study highlights the need to constantly monitor the evolution of H9N2 viruses in poultry to better understand the potential risk to human health posed by these viruses.
Although extensive data demonstrates that the majority of H6 duck isolates belonged to a single H6N2 virus lineage with a single gene constellation in southern China from 2000 to 2005, the prevalence of H6N2 virus in poultry in Eastern China is largely unknown.
Epidemiology revealed that H6N2 viruses were the most frequently detected influenza subtypes in live bird markets from 2002 to 2008 in Eastern China, but from 2009 onwards, they were replaced with novel H6N6 viruses. We phylogenetically and antigenically analyzed 42 H6 viruses isolated mainly in domestic ducks from 2002 to 2010 in Eastern China. Surprisingly, none of these isolates grouped with the previously described H6N2 viruses which belonged to a single H6N2 virus lineage with a single gene constellation in domestic ducks in southern China from 2000 to 2005. Two distinct hemagglutinin lineages were identified and they all underwent frequent reassortment with multiple virus subtypes from the natural gene pool, but few reassortants were persistent or prevalent.
Five subtypes of H6 influenza viruses (H6N1, H6N2, H6N5, H6N6 and H6N8) cocirculated in Eastern China, which form a significant part of the natural influenza virus reservoir in domestic ducks, and significant viral reassortment is still ongoing in this species.
H6 influenza viruses; poultry; phylogenetic analysis; molecular evolution
H9N2 influenza viruses have become established and maintain long-term endemicity in poultry. The complete genomes of seven avian H9N2 influenza viruses were characterized. These seven influenza virus isolates were obtained from live poultry markets in Shanghai, China, in 2002 and from 2006 to 2008. Genetic analysis revealed that all seven isolates had an RSSR motif at the cleavage site of hemagglutinin (HA), indicating low pathogenicity in chickens. Phylogenetic analyses indicated that the seven avian H9N2 viruses belonged to the lineage represented by Duck/Hong Kong/Y280/97 (H9N2), a virus belonging to the Chicken/Beijing/1/94-like (H9N2) lineage, and that they are all quadruple reassortants consisting of genes from different lineages. The six internal genes of the isolates possessed H5N1-like sequences, indicating that they were reassortants of H9 and H5 viruses. All of the viruses had nonstructural (as well as HA and neuraminidase) genes derived from the Duck/Hong Kong/Y280/97-like virus lineage but also had other genes of mixed avian virus origin, including genes similar to those of H5N1 viruses (Gs/GD-like). The infected chickens showed no signs of disease. These results show the genetic and biological diversity of H9N2 viruses in Shanghai and support their potential role as pandemic influenza agents.
Pigs are permissive to both human and avian influenza viruses and have been proposed to be an intermediate host for the genesis of pandemic influenza viruses through reassortment or adaptation of avian viruses. Prospective virological surveillance carried out between March 1998 and June 2000 in Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, People's Republic of China, on pigs imported from southeastern China, provides the first evidence of interspecies transmission of avian H9N2 viruses to pigs and documents their cocirculation with contemporary human H3N2 (A/Sydney/5/97-like, Sydney97-like) viruses. All gene segments of the porcine H9N2 viruses were closely related to viruses similar to chicken/Beijing/1/94 (H9N2), duck/Hong Kong/Y280/97 (H9N2), and the descendants of the latter virus lineage. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that repeated interspecies transmission events had occurred from the avian host to pigs. The Sydney97-like (H3N2) viruses isolated from pigs were related closely to contemporary human H3N2 viruses in all gene segments and had not undergone genetic reassortment. Cocirculation of avian H9N2 and human H3N2 viruses in pigs provides an opportunity for genetic reassortment leading to the emergence of viruses with pandemic potential.
Pandemic influenza in humans is a zoonotic disease caused by the transfer of influenza A viruses or virus gene segments from animal reservoirs. Influenza A viruses have been isolated from avian and mammalian hosts, although the primary reservoirs are the aquatic bird populations of the world. In the aquatic birds, influenza is asymptomatic, and the viruses are in evolutionary stasis. The aquatic bird viruses do not replicate well in humans, and these viruses need to reassort or adapt in an intermediate host before they emerge in human populations. Pigs can serve as a host for avian and human viruses and are logical candidates for the role of intermediate host. The transmission of avian H5N1 and H9N2 viruses directly to humans during the late 1990s showed that land-based poultry also can serve between aquatic birds and humans as intermediate hosts of influenza viruses. That these transmission events took place in Hong Kong and China adds further support to the hypothesis that Asia is an epicentre for influenza and stresses the importance of surveillance of pigs and live-bird markets in this area.
The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 disease has led to significant loss of poultry and wild life and case fatality rates in humans of 60%. Wild birds are natural hosts for all avian influenza virus subtypes and over120 bird species have been reported with evidence of H5N1 infection. Influenza A viruses possess a segmented RNA genome and are characterized by frequently occurring genetic reassortment events, which play a very important role in virus evolution and the spread of novel gene constellations in immunologically naïve human and animal populations. Phylogenetic analysis of whole genome or sub-genomic sequences is a standard means for delineating genetic variation, novel reassortment events, and surveillance to trace the global transmission pathways. In this paper, special emphasis is given to the transmission and circulation of H5N1 among wild life populations, and to the reassortment events that are associated with inter-host transmission of the H5N1 viruses when they infect different hosts, such as birds, pigs and humans. In addition, we review the inter-subtype reassortment of the viral segments encoding inner proteins between the H5N1 viruses and viruses of other subtypes, such as H9N2 and H6N1. Finally, we highlight the usefulness of genomic sequences in molecular epidemiological analysis of HPAI H5N1 and the technical limitations in existing analytical methods that hinder them from playing a greater role in virological research.
Avian Influenza H5N1; reassortment; transmission; genomic; phylogeny; wild bird.
Despite substantial efforts to control H5N1 avian influenza viruses (AIVs), the viruses have continued to evolve and cause disease outbreaks in poultry and infections in humans. In this report, we analyzed 51 representative H5N1 AIVs isolated from domestic poultry, wild birds, and humans in China during 2004 to 2009, and 21 genotypes were detected based on whole-genome sequences. Twelve genotypes of AIVs in southern China bear similar H5 hemagglutinin (HA) genes (clade 2.3). These AIVs did not display antigenic drift and could be completely protected against by the A/goose/Guangdong/1/96 (GS/GD/1/96)-based oil-adjuvanted killed vaccine and recombinant Newcastle disease virus vaccine, which have been used in China. In addition, antigenically drifted H5N1 viruses, represented by A/chicken/Shanxi/2/06 (CK/SX/2/06), were detected in chickens from several provinces in northern China. The CK/SX/2/06-like viruses are reassortants with newly emerged HA, NA, and PB1 genes that could not be protected against by the GS/GD/1/96-based vaccines. These viruses also reacted poorly with antisera generated from clade 2.2 and 2.3 viruses. The majority of the viruses isolated from southern China were lethal in mice and ducks, while the CK/SX/2/06-like viruses caused mild disease in mice and could not replicate in ducks. Our results demonstrate that the H5N1 AIVs circulating in nature have complex biological characteristics and pose a continued challenge for disease control and pandemic preparedness.
The hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes of H7 avian influenza virus (AIV) isolated between 1994 and 2002 from live-bird markets (LBMs) in the northeastern United States and from three outbreaks in commercial poultry have been characterized. Phylogenetic analysis of the HA and NA genes demonstrates that the isolates from commercial poultry were closely related to the viruses circulating in the LBMs. Also, since 1994, two distinguishing genetic features have appeared in this AIV lineage: a deletion of 17 amino acids in the NA protein stalk region and a deletion of 8 amino acids in the HA1 protein which is putatively in part of the receptor binding site. Furthermore, analysis of the HA cleavage site amino acid sequence, a marker for pathogenicity in chickens and turkeys, shows a progression toward a cleavage site sequence that fulfills the molecular criteria for highly pathogenic AIV.
Since the 1997 H5N1 influenza virus outbreak in humans and poultry in Hong Kong, the emergence of closely related viruses in poultry has raised concerns that additional zoonotic transmissions of influenza viruses from poultry to humans may occur. In May 2001, an avian H5N1 influenza A virus was isolated from duck meat that had been imported to South Korea from China. Phylogenetic analysis of the hemagglutinin (HA) gene of A/Duck/Anyang/AVL-1/01 showed that the virus clustered with the H5 Goose/Guandong/1/96 lineage and 1997 Hong Kong human isolates and possessed an HA cleavage site sequence identical to these isolates. Following intravenous or intranasal inoculation, this virus was highly pathogenic and replicated to high titers in chickens. The pathogenesis of DK/Anyang/AVL-1/01 virus in Pekin ducks was further characterized and compared with a recent H5N1 isolate, A/Chicken/Hong Kong/317.5/01, and an H5N1 1997 chicken isolate, A/Chicken/Hong Kong/220/97. Although no clinical signs of disease were observed in H5N1 virus-inoculated ducks, infectious virus could be detected in lung tissue, cloacal, and oropharyngeal swabs. The DK/Anyang/AVL-1/01 virus was unique among the H5N1 isolates in that infectious virus and viral antigen could also be detected in muscle and brain tissue of ducks. The pathogenesis of DK/Anyang/AVL-1/01 virus was characterized in BALB/c mice and compared with the other H5N1 isolates. All viruses replicated in mice, but in contrast to the highly lethal CK/HK/220/97 virus, DK/Anyang/AVL-1/01 and CK/HK/317.5/01 viruses remained localized to the respiratory tract. DK/Anyang/AVL-1/01 virus caused weight loss and resulted in 22 to 33% mortality, whereas CK/HK/317.5/01-infected mice exhibited no morbidity or mortality. The isolation of a highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus from poultry indicates that such viruses are still circulating in China and may present a risk for transmission of the virus to humans.
Recently, a novel H7N9 avian influenza A virus has led to a human influenza outbreak in China. Here we report a 64-year old man with possible history of chronic bronchitis died from the H7N9 infection in Huzhou City, Zhejiang Province in Eastern China. The patient had been exposed to poultry before disease onset. Phylogenetic analyses of hemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes showed a close genetic relationship between viruses from the patient and from poultry booths where he had visited, indicating that the patient may have been exposed from the infected poultry. Two poultry venders and close contacts of the patient were negative for H7N9, suggesting that there are some unknown mechanisms to prevent them from being infected by the novel H7N9 virus. Furthermore, we found five novel H7N9 virus-specific sequence variations in receptor-binding site of hemagglutinin, which may be associated with the acquisition of the ability to infect humans.
A/H7N9 influenza virus; susceptibility; chronic bronchitis; poultry; hemagglutinin; neuraminidase
H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses have seriously affected the Asian poultry industry since their recurrence in 2003. The viruses pose a threat of emergence of a global pandemic influenza through point mutation or reassortment leading to a strain that can effectively transmit among humans. In this study, we present phylogenetic evidences for the interlineage reassortment among H5N1 HPAI viruses isolated from humans, cats, and birds in Indonesia, and identify the potential genetic parents of the reassorted genome segments. Parsimony analyses of viral phylogeography suggest that the reassortant viruses may have originated from greater Jakarta and surroundings, and subsequently spread to other regions in the West Java province. In addition, Bayesian methods were used to elucidate the genetic diversity dynamics of the reassortant strain and one of its genetic parents, which revealed a more rapid initial growth of genetic diversity in the reassortant viruses relative to their genetic parent. These results demonstrate that interlineage exchange of genetic information may play a pivotal role in determining viral genetic diversity in a focal population. Moreover, our study also revealed significantly stronger diversifying selection on the M1 and PB2 genes in the lineages preceding and subsequent to the emergence of the reassortant viruses, respectively. We discuss how the corresponding mutations might drive the adaptation and onward transmission of the newly formed reassortant viruses.
H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus emerged in China in 1996, and has spread beyond Asia since 2003. Following the first outbreak reported in Indonesian poultry farms in December 2003, the virus spilled over to 27 Indonesian provinces by June 2006, and became endemic in the country. In the following years, repeated sporadic human infections in Indonesia had been attributed to H5N1 HPAI viruses. Nonetheless, the viral evolution and transmission have not been fully understood. Here, we report phylogenetic evidence of a group of interlineage reassortant viruses isolated from human and cats in Java. Our comparative study of the reassortant viruses and one group of genetic parents found that although their rates of evolution were similar and both of their phylogenies were not geographically structured within mainland Java, the growths of genetic diversity were different. We also detected significant positive selection on the viral matrix and polymerase genes preceding and subsequent to the emergence of the reassortant viruses, which might correspond to viral adaptation. Based on our findings, we discuss the possibility of host switching in facilitating the emergence of the reassortant strain, and call for more extensive viral surveillances in the non-avian population in Indonesia.
Avian H9N2 influenza A virus has caused repeated human infections in Asia since 1998. Here we report that an H9N2 influenza virus infected a 5-year-old child in Hong Kong in 2003. To identify the possible source of the infection, the human isolate and other H9N2 influenza viruses isolated from Hong Kong poultry markets from January to October 2003 were genetically and antigenically characterized. The findings of this study show that the human H9N2 influenza virus, A/Hong Kong/2108/03, is of purely avian origin and is closely related to some viruses circulating in poultry in the markets of Hong Kong. The continued presence of H9N2 influenza viruses in poultry markets in southern China increases the likelihood of avian-to-human interspecies transmission.
Influenza A viruses are highly infectious respiratory pathogens that can infect many species. Birds are the reservoir for all known influenza A subtypes; and novel influenza viruses can emerge from birds and infect mammalian species including humans. Because swine are susceptible to infection with both avian and human influenza viruses, novel reassortant influenza viruses can be generated in this mammalian species by reassortment of influenza viral segments leading to the “mixing vessel” theory. There is no direct evidence that the reassortment events culminating in the 1918, 1957 or 1968 pandemic influenza viruses originated from pigs. Genetic reassortment among avian, human and/or swine influenza virus gene segments has occurred in pigs and some novel reassortant swine viruses have been transmitted to humans. Notably, novel reassortant H2N3 influenza viruses isolated from the US pigs, most likely infected with avian influenza viruses through surface water collected in ponds for cleaning barns and watering animals, had a similar genetic make-up to early isolates (1957) of the H2N2 human pandemic. These novel H2N3 swine viruses were able to cause disease in swine and mice and were infectious and highly transmissible in swine and ferrets without prior adaptation. The preceding example shows that pigs could transmit novel viruses from an avian reservoir to other mammalian species. Importantly, H2 viruses pose a substantial risk to humans because they have been absent from mammalian species since 1968 and people born after 1968 have little preexisting immunity to the H2 subtype. It is difficult to predict which virus will cause the next human pandemic and when that pandemic might begin. Importantly, the establishment and spread of a reassorted mammalian-adapted virus from pigs to humans could happen anywhere in the world. Therefore, both human and veterinary research needs to give more attention to potential cross-species transmission capacity of influenza A viruses.
Swine; influenza A virus; mixing vessel; genetic reassortment; human pandemic
H9N2 influenza A viruses have become endemic in different types of terrestrial poultry and wild birds in Asia, and are occasionally transmitted to humans and pigs. To evaluate the role of black-billed magpies (Pica pica) in the evolution of influenza A virus, we conducted two epidemic surveys on avian influenza viruses in wild black-billed magpies in Guangxi, China in 2005 and characterized three isolated black-billed magpie H9N2 viruses (BbM viruses). Phylogenetic analysis indicated that three BbM viruses were almost identical with 99.7 to 100% nucleotide homology in their whole genomes, and were reassortants containing BJ94-like (Ck/BJ/1/94) HA, NA, M, and NS genes, SH/F/98-like (Ck/SH/F/98) PB2, PA, and NP genes, and H5N1-like (Ck/YN/1252/03, clade 1) PB1 genes. Genetic analysis showed that BbM viruses were most likely the result of multiple reassortments between co-circulating H9N2-like and H5N1-like viruses, and were genetically different from other H9N2 viruses because of the existence of H5N1-like PB1 genes. Genotypical analysis revealed that BbM viruses evolved from diverse sources and belonged to a novel genotype (B46) discovered in our recent study. Molecular analysis suggested that BbM viruses were likely low pathogenic reassortants. However, results of our pathogenicity study demonstrated that BbM viruses replicated efficiently in chickens and a mammalian mouse model but were not lethal for infected chickens and mice. Antigenic analysis showed that BbM viruses were antigenic heterologous with the H9N2 vaccine strain. Our study is probably the first report to document and characterize H9N2 influenza viruses isolated from black-billed magpies in southern China. Our results suggest that black-billed magpies were susceptible to H9N2 influenza viruses, which raise concerns over possible transmissions of reassortant H9N2 viruses among poultry and wild birds.
Swine influenza is an acute respiratory disease caused by type A influenza viruses. Before 1998, swine influenza virus isolates in the United States were mainly of the classical H1N1 lineage. Since then, phylogenetically distinct reassortant H3N2 viruses have been identified as respiratory pathogens in pigs on U.S. farms. The H3N2 viruses presently circulating in the U.S. swine population are triple reassortants containing avian-like (PA and PB2), swine-like (M, NP, and NS), and human-like (HA, NA, and PB1) gene segments. Recent sequence data show that the triple reassortants have acquired at least three distinct H3 molecules from human influenza viruses and thus form three distinct phylogenetic clusters (I to III). In this study we analyzed the antigenic and pathogenic properties of viruses belonging to each of these clusters. Hemagglutination inhibition and neutralization assays that used hyperimmune sera obtained from caesarian-derived, colostrum-deprived pigs revealed that H3N2 cluster I and cluster III viruses share common epitopes, whereas a cluster II virus showed only limited cross-reactivity. H3N2 viruses from each of the three clusters were able to induce clinical signs of disease and associated lesions upon intratracheal inoculation into seronegative pigs. There were, however, differences in the severity of lesions between individual strains even within one antigenic cluster. A correlation between the severity of disease and pig age was observed. These data highlight the increased diversity of swine influenza viruses in the United States and would indicate that surveillance should be intensified to determine the most suitable vaccine components.
Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) H9N2 viruses have been circulating in the Eurasian poultry industry resulting in great economic losses due to declined egg production and moderate to high mortality. In Korea, H9N2 LPAI was first documented in 1996 and it caused serious economic loss in the Korean poultry industry, including layer and broiler breeder farms. Since then, the H9N2 viruses that belong to the Korea group have been prevalent in chickens and have continuously evolved through reassortment in live bird markets. To control LPAI outbreaks, since 2007, the Korean veterinary authority has permitted the use of the inactivated oil adjuvant H9N2 LPAI vaccine. Although only oil-based inactivated vaccine using the egg-passaged vaccine virus strain (A/chicken/Korea/01310/2001) is permitted and used, several new technology vaccines have been recently suggested for the development of cost-effective and highly immunogenic vaccines. In addition, several different differentiation of infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) strategies have been suggested using appropriate vaccines and companion serologic tests for discriminating between naturally infected and vaccinated animals. Recent reports demonstrated that the Korean LPAI H9N2 virus underwent antigenic drift and evolved into distinct antigenic groups and thus could escape from vaccine protection. Therefore, improved vaccination strategies including periodic updates of vaccine seed strains are required to achieve efficient control and eradication of LPAI H9N2 in Korea. Further, vaccination should be part of an overall integrated strategy to control the disease, including continued nation-wide surveillance, farm biosecurity, and DIVA strategy.
Avian influenza virus; H9N2; Vaccine; Evolution
Here, we report the complete genomic sequence of a novel reassortant H4N2 influenza virus isolated from domestic ducks in the Jiangsu province of China in 2011. Phylogenetic analysis showed that all the viral genes except for hemagglutinin (HA) were highly homologous to the clade 2.3.4 H5N2 viruses. The data suggest that genetic reassortment occurred between H4 and H5N2 avian influenza viruses, which highlights the role of domestic poultry as a reassortment vessel in China.
H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus has been endemic in poultry in Egypt since 2008, notwithstanding the implementation of mass vaccination and culling of infected birds. Extensive circulation of the virus has resulted in a progressive genetic evolution and an antigenic drift. In poultry, the occurrence of antigenic drift in avian influenza viruses is less well documented and the mechanisms remain to be clarified. To test the hypothesis that H5N1 antigenic drift is driven by mechanisms similar to type A influenza viruses in humans, we generated reassortant viruses, by reverse genetics, that harbored molecular changes identified in genetically divergent viruses circulating in the vaccinated population. Parental and reassortant phenotype viruses were antigenically analyzed by hemagglutination inhibition (HI) test and microneutralization (MN) assay. The results of the study indicate that the antigenic drift of H5N1 in poultry is driven by multiple mutations primarily occurring in major antigenic sites at the receptor binding subdomain, similarly to what has been described for human influenza H1 and H3 subtype viruses.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus lineage has undergone extensive genetic reassortment with viruses from different sources to produce numerous H5N1 genotypes, and also developed into multiple genetically distinct sublineages in China. From there, the virus has spread to over 60 countries. The ecological success of this virus in diverse species of both poultry and wild birds with frequent introduction to humans suggests that it is a likely source of the next human pandemic. Therefore, the evolutionary and ecological characteristics of its emergence from wild birds into poultry are of considerable interest. Here, we apply the latest analytical techniques to infer the early evolutionary dynamics of H5N1 virus in the population from which it emerged (wild birds and domestic poultry). By estimating the time of most recent common ancestors of each gene segment, we show that the H5N1 prototype virus was likely introduced from wild birds into poultry as a non-reassortant low pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 virus and was not generated by reassortment in poultry. In contrast, more recent H5N1 genotypes were generated locally in aquatic poultry after the prototype virus (A/goose/Guangdong/1/96) introduction occurred, i.e., they were not a result of additional emergence from wild birds. We show that the H5N1 virus was introduced into Indonesia and Vietnam 3–6 months prior to detection of the first outbreaks in those countries. Population dynamics analyses revealed a rapid increase in the genetic diversity of A/goose/Guangdong/1/96 lineage viruses from mid-1999 to early 2000. Our results suggest that the transmission of reassortant viruses through the mixed poultry population in farms and markets in China has selected HPAI H5N1 viruses that are well adapted to multiple hosts and reduced the interspecies transmission barrier of those viruses.
H5N1 influenza virus has been responsible for poultry outbreaks over the last 12 years—the longest recorded example of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) circulation in poultry. The ecological success of this virus in diverse species of both poultry and wild birds with sporadic introduction to humans suggests that it is a likely source of the next human pandemic. Genome sequences of H5N1 viruses reveal extensive genetic reassortment (mixing) with other influenza subtypes to produce many H5N1 genotypes that have developed into multiple genetically distinct clades, some of which have spread to affect over 60 countries. Here, we analyze all available sequence data of avian influenza viruses from Eurasia and show that the original HPAI H5N1 virus (referred to as A/goose/Guangdong/1/96) was likely introduced directly into poultry as an intact virus particle from wild aquatic birds. In contrast, H5N1 genotypes were generated in aquatic poultry populations after the introduction of A/goose/Guangdong/1/96 virus. Our results suggest that the transmission of reassortant viruses through the diverse poultry populations in farms and markets in China has selected H5N1 viruses that are well-adapted to multiple hosts and reduced the interspecies transmission barrier of those viruses.