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1.  Expanded Cocirculation of Stable Subtypes, Emerging Lineages, and New Sporadic Reassortants of Porcine Influenza Viruses in Swine Populations in Northwest Germany 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(19):10460-10476.
The emergence of the human 2009 pandemic H1N1 (H1N1pdm) virus from swine populations refocused public and scientific attention on swine as an important source of influenza A viruses bearing zoonotic potential. Widespread and year-round circulation of at least four stable lineages of porcine influenza viruses between 2009 and 2012 in a region of Germany with a high-density swine population is documented here. European avian influenza virus-derived H1N1 (H1N1av) viruses dominated the epidemiology, followed by human-derived subtypes H1N2 and H3N2. H1N1pdm viruses and, in particular, recently emerging reassortants between H1N1pdm and porcine HxN2 viruses (H1pdmN2) were detected in about 8% of cases. Further reassortants between these main lineages were diagnosed sporadically. Ongoing diversification both at the phylogenetic and at the antigenic level was evident for the H1N1av lineage and for some of its reassortants. The H1avN2 reassortant R1931/11 displayed conspicuously distinct genetic and antigenic features and was easily transmitted from pig to pig in an experimental infection. Continuing diverging evolution was also observed in the H1pdmN2 lineage. These viruses carry seven genome segments of the H1N1pdm virus, including a hemagglutinin gene that encodes a markedly antigenically altered protein. The zoonotic potential of this lineage remains to be determined. The results highlight the relevance of surveillance and control of porcine influenza virus infections. This is important for the health status of swine herds. In addition, a more exhaustive tracing of the formation, transmission, and spread of new reassortant influenza A viruses with unknown zoonotic potential is urgently required.
PMCID: PMC3807404  PMID: 23824819
2.  Failure of productive infection of Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) with H16 subtype of avian influenza viruses 
Mallard ducks and other waterfowl represent the most important reservoirs of low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIV). In addition, mallards are the most abundant duck species in Eurasia that migrate over long distances. Despite extended wild bird monitoring studies over the past decade in many Eurasian countries and investigating hundreds of thousands of wild bird samples, no mallard duck was found to be positive for avian influenza virus of subtype H16 in faecal, cloacal or oropharyngeal samples. Just three cases of H16 infections in Anseriformes species were described worldwide. In contrast, H16 viruses have been repeatedly isolated from birds of the Laridae family.
Here, we tested the hypothesis that mallards are less permissive to infection with H16 viruses.
Groups of mallard ducks of different age were inoculated via the oculo-nasal-oral route with different infectious doses of an H16N3 AIV.
The ducks did not show any clinical symptoms, and no virus shedding was evident from cloacal and respiratory routes after experimental infection as shown by negative RT-qPCR results. In addition, all serum samples taken on days 8, 21 and 24 post-inoculation were negative by competitive NP-ELISA.
This study provided evidence that mallards are resistant to infection with H16N3 LPAIV.
PMCID: PMC4262275  PMID: 25205059
Avian influenza; H16 subtype; influenza pathogenesis; Mallard duck
3.  Distinction of subtype-specific antibodies against European porcine influenza viruses by indirect ELISA based on recombinant hemagglutinin protein fragment-1 
Virology Journal  2013;10:246.
Serological investigations of swine influenza virus infections and epidemiological conclusions thereof are challenging due to the complex and regionally variable pattern of co-circulating viral subtypes and lineages and varying vaccination regimes. Detection of subtype-specific antibodies currently depends on hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assays which are difficult to standardize and unsuitable for large scale investigations.
The nucleocapsid protein (NP) and HA1 fragments of the hemagglutinin protein (HA) of five different lineages (H1N1av, H1N1pdm, H1pdmN2, H1N2, H3N2) of swine influenza viruses were bacterially expressed and used as diagnostic antigens in indirect ELISA.
Proteins were co-translationally mono-biotinylated and refolded in vitro into an antigenically authentic conformation. Western blotting and indirect ELISA revealed highly subtype-specific antigenic characteristics of the recombinant HA1 proteins although some cross reactivity especially among antigens of the H1 subtype were evident. Discrimination of antibodies directed against four swine influenza virus subtypes co-circulating in Germany was feasible using the indirect ELISA format.
Bacterially expressed recombinant NP and HA1 swine influenza virus proteins served as antigens in indirect ELISAs and provided an alternative to commercial blocking NP ELISA and HI assays concerning generic (NP-specific) and HA subtype-specific sero-diagnostics, respectively, on a herd basis.
PMCID: PMC3733666  PMID: 23898799
Pandemic influenza; Swine; Mixing vessel; Subtype specificity; Sero-diagnostics
4.  Simultaneous detection and differentiation by multiplex real time RT-PCR of highly pathogenic avian influenza subtype H5N1 classic (clade 2.2.1 proper) and escape mutant (clade 2.2.1 variant) lineages in Egypt 
Virology Journal  2010;7:260.
The endemic status of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) of subtype H5N1 in Egypt continues to devastate the local poultry industry and poses a permanent threat for human health. Several genetically and antigenically distinct H5N1 lineages co-circulate in Egypt: Strains of clade 2.2.1 proper replicate mainly in backyard birds causing the bulk of human infections, while a variant lineage within 2.2.1 (2.2.1v) appears to be perpetuated mainly in commercial poultry farms in Egypt. Viruses of the 2.2.1v lineage represent drift variants escaping from conventional vaccine-induced immunity and some of these strains also escaped detection by commercial real time reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-qPCR) protocols due to mismatches in the primers/probe binding sites.
We developed therefore a versatile, sensitive and lineage-specific multiplex RT-qPCR for detection and typing of H5N1 viruses in Egypt. Analytical characterization was carried out using 50 Egyptian HPAIV H5N1 strains isolated since 2006 and 45 other avian influenza viruses (AIV). A detection limit of 400 cRNA copies per ml sample matrix was found. Higher diagnostic sensitivity of the multiplex assay in comparison to other generic H5 or M-gene based RT-qPCR assays were found by examination of 63 swab samples from experimentally infected chickens and 50 AIV-positive swab samples from different host species in the field in Egypt.
The new multiplex RT-qPCR assay could be useful for rapid high-throughput monitoring for the presence of HPAIV H5N1 in commercial poultry in Egypt. It may also aid in prospective epidemiological studies to further delineate and better control spread of HPAIV H5N1 in Egypt.
PMCID: PMC2958913  PMID: 20929539
5.  Limited Susceptibility of Chickens, Turkeys, and Mice to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 Virus 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2010;16(4):703-705.
To determine susceptibility of chickens, turkeys, and mice to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus, we conducted contact exposure and inoculation experiments. We demonstrated that chickens were refractory to infection. However, oculo-oronasally inoculated turkeys and intranasally inoculated mice seroconverted without clinical signs of infection.
PMCID: PMC3321957  PMID: 20350393
Swine influenza; pandemic (H1N1) 2009; pathogenicity; transmission; chickens; turkeys; mice; influenza; viruses; dispatch
6.  Avian influenza virus monitoring in wintering waterbirds in Iran, 2003-2007 
Virology Journal  2010;7:43.
Virological, molecular and serological studies were carried out to determine the status of infections with avian influenza viruses (AIV) in different species of wild waterbirds in Iran during 2003-2007. Samples were collected from 1146 birds representing 45 different species with the majority of samples originating from ducks, coots and shorebirds. Samples originated from 6 different provinces representative for the 15 most important wintering sites of migratory waterbirds in Iran.
Overall, AIV were detected in approximately 3.4% of the samples. However, prevalence was higher (up to 8.3%) at selected locations and for certain species. No highly pathogenic avian influenza, including H5N1 was detected. A total of 35 AIVs were detected from cloacal or oropharyngeal swab samples. These positive samples originated mainly from Mallards and Common Teals.
Of 711 serum samples tested for AIV antibodies, 345 (48.5%) were positive by using a nucleoprotein-specific competitive ELISA (NP-C-ELISA). Ducks including Mallard, Common Teal, Common Pochard, Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Wigeon revealed the highest antibody prevalence ranging from 44 to 75%.
Results of these investigations provide important information about the prevalence of LPAIV in wild birds in Iran, especially wetlands around the Caspian Sea which represent an important wintering site for migratory water birds. Mallard and Common Teal exhibited the highest number of positives in virological and serological investigations: 43% and 26% virological positive cases and 24% and 46% serological positive reactions, respectively. These two species may play an important role in the ecology and perpetuation of influenza viruses in this region. In addition, it could be shown that both oropharyngeal and cloacal swab samples contribute to the detection of positive birds, and neither should be neglected.
PMCID: PMC2837633  PMID: 20167132
7.  Ducks as Sentinels for Avian Influenza in Wild Birds 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(10):1633-1636.
To determine the effectiveness of ducks as sentinels for avian influenza virus (AIV) infection, we placed mallards in contact with wild birds at resting sites in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Infections of sentinel birds with different AIV subtypes confirmed the value of such surveillance for AIV monitoring.
PMCID: PMC2866406  PMID: 19861060
sentinel; avian influenza; active surveillance; wild birds; influenza; viruses; dispatch
8.  Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Infection of Mallards with Homo- and Heterosubtypic Immunity Induced by Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6706.
The potential role of wild birds as carriers of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) subtype H5N1 is still a matter of debate. Consecutive or simultaneous infections with different subtypes of influenza viruses of low pathogenicity (LPAIV) are very common in wild duck populations. To better understand the epidemiology and pathogenesis of HPAIV H5N1 infections in natural ecosystems, we investigated the influence of prior infection of mallards with homo- (H5N2) and heterosubtypic (H4N6) LPAIV on exposure to HPAIV H5N1. In mallards with homosubtypic immunity induced by LPAIV infection, clinical disease was absent and shedding of HPAIV from respiratory and intestinal tracts was grossly reduced compared to the heterosubtypic and control groups (mean GEC/100 µl at 3 dpi: 3.0×102 vs. 2.3×104 vs. 8.7×104; p<0.05). Heterosubtypic immunity induced by an H4N6 infection mediated a similar but less pronounced effect. We conclude that the epidemiology of HPAIV H5N1 in mallards and probably other aquatic wild bird species is massively influenced by interfering immunity induced by prior homo- and heterosubtypic LPAIV infections.
PMCID: PMC2724736  PMID: 19693268
9.  Chances and Limitations of Wild Bird Monitoring for the Avian Influenza Virus H5N1 — Detection of Pathogens Highly Mobile in Time and Space 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6639.
Highly pathogenic influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N1 proved to be remarkably mobile in migratory bird populations where it has led to extensive outbreaks for which the true number of affected birds usually cannot be determined. For the evaluation of avian influenza monitoring and HPAIV early warning systems, we propose a time-series analysis that includes the estimation of confidence intervals for (i) the prevalence in outbreak situations or (ii) in the apparent absence of disease in time intervals for specified regional units. For the German outbreak regions in 2006 and 2007, the upper 95% confidence limit allowed the detection of prevalences below 1% only for certain time intervals. Although more than 25,000 birds were sampled in Germany per year, the upper 95% confidence limit did not fall below 5% in the outbreak regions for most of the time. The proposed analysis can be used to monitor water bodies and high risk areas, also as part of an early-warning system. Chances for an improved targeting of the monitoring system as part of a risk-based approach are discussed with the perspective of reducing sample sizes.
PMCID: PMC2722081  PMID: 19680560
10.  Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) in Frozen Duck Carcasses, Germany, 2007 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2009;15(2):272-279.
Article summary line: Phylogenetic and epidemiologic evidence shows incursion of HPAIV into the food chain.
We conducted phylogenetic and epidemiologic analyses to determine sources of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV), subtype H5N1, in poultry holdings in 2007 in Germany, and a suspected incursion of HPAIV into the food chain through contaminated deep-frozen duck carcasses. In summer 2007, HPAIV (H5N1) outbreaks in 3 poultry holdings in Germany were temporally, spatially, and phylogenetically linked to outbreaks in wild aquatic birds. Detection of HPAIV (H5N1) in frozen duck carcass samples of retained slaughter batches of 1 farm indicated that silent infection had occurred for some time before the incidental detection. Phylogenetic analysis established a direct epidemiologic link between HPAIV isolated from duck meat and strains isolated from 3 further outbreaks in December 2007 in backyard chickens that had access to uncooked offal from commercial deep-frozen duck carcasses. Measures that will prevent such undetected introduction of HPAIV (H5N1) into the food chain are urgently required.
PMCID: PMC2657628  PMID: 19193272
Highly pathogenic avian influenza; food safety; H5N1; epidemiology; phylogeny; research
11.  Experimental Infection and Natural Contact Exposure of Dogs with Avian Influenza Virus (H5N1) 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2008;14(2):308-310.
Experiments that exposed influenza virus (H5N1)–infected cats to susceptible dogs did not result in intraspecies or interspecies transmission. Infected dogs showed increased body temperatures, viral RNA in pharyngeal swabs, and seroconversion but not fatal disease.
PMCID: PMC2600189  PMID: 18258127
highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) virus; dog; cat; canine; feline; susceptibility; dispatch
12.  New LightCycler PCR for Rapid and Sensitive Quantification of Parvovirus B19 DNA Guides Therapeutic Decision-Making in Relapsing Infections 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(12):4413-4419.
Detection of parvovirus B19 DNA offers diagnostic advantages over serology, particularly in persistent infections of immunocompromised patients. A rapid, novel method of B19 DNA detection and quantification is introduced. This method, a quantitative PCR assay, is based on real-time glass capillary thermocycling (LightCycler [LC]) and fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). The PCR assay allowed quantification over a dynamic range of over 7 logs and could quantify as little as 250 B19 genome equivalents (geq) per ml as calculated for plasmid DNA (i.e., theoretically ≥5 geq per assay). Interrater agreement analysis demonstrated equivalence of LC-FRET PCR and conventional nested PCR in the diagnosis of an active B19 infection (kappa coefficient = 0.83). The benefit of the new method was demonstrated in an immunocompromised child with a relapsing infection, who required an attenuation of the immunosuppressive therapy in addition to repeated doses of immunoglobulin to eliminate the virus.
PMCID: PMC88558  PMID: 11724854
13.  Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Immunoglobulin M (IgM) and IgG Antibodies against Canine Distemper Virus by a New Recombinant Nucleocapsid Protein-Based Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1999;37(4):1049-1056.
Canine distemper morbillivirus (CDV) infection causes a frequently fatal systemic disease in a broad range of carnivore species, including domestic dogs. In CDV infection, classical serology provides data of diagnostic and prognostic values (kinetics of seroconversion) and is also used to predict the optimal vaccination age of pups. Routine CDV serology is still based on time- and cost-intensive virus neutralization assays (V-NA). Here, we describe a new capture-sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) that uses recombinant baculovirus-expressed nucleocapsid (N) protein of a recent CDV wild-type isolate (2544/Han95) for the detection of CDV-specific antibodies in canine sera. Recombinant antigen was produced with high efficacy in Heliothis virescens larvae. The capture-sandwich ELISA enabled a clear-cut qualitative evaluation of the CDV-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgM serostatuses of 196 and 35 dog sera, respectively. Inter-rater agreement analysis (κ = 0.988) indicated that the ELISA can be used unrestrictedly as a substitute for the V-NA for the qualitative determination of CDV-specific IgG serostatus. In an attempt to semiquantify N-specific antibodies, a one-step-dilution (alpha method) IgG-specific ELISA was implemented. Alpha values of ≥50% showed very good inter-rater agreement (κ = 0.968) with V-NA titers of ≥1/100 50% neutralizing dose (ND50) as measured against the central European CDV wild-type isolate 2544/Han95 in canine sera originating from northern Germany. An ND50 titer of 1/100 is considered a threshold, and titers of ≥1/100 indicate a resilient, protective immunity. CDV N-specific antibodies of the IgM class were detected by the newly developed ELISA in 9 of 15 sera obtained from dogs with symptoms of acute distemper. In leucocytes of 5 of the 15 dogs (all of which were also IgM positive) CDV RNA was detected by reverse transcription (RT)-PCR. The recombinant capture-sandwich ELISA detecting N-specific antibodies of the IgG class provided superior sensitivity and specificity and thus represents a rapid and cost-effective alternative to classical CDV V-NA. By detection of specific IgM antibodies, the ELISA will be complementary to RT-PCR and V-NA in the diagnosis of acute distemper infections.
PMCID: PMC88648  PMID: 10074525

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