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Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N6 (clade 2.3.4.4b) has a preferable host tropism for waterfowl reflected in its inefficient transmission to terrestrial poultry

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Our DELTA-FLU partner APHA publishes a new study showing efficient transmission of H5N6 HPAIV among ducks with inefficient transmission from ducks to terrestrial poultry.

 

Highly-pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N6 (clade 2.3.4.4b) incurred into Europe in late 2017 and was predominantly detected in wild birds, with very few terrestrial poultry cases. Pekin ducks directly-infected with a UK virus (H5N6-2017) were donors of infection to investigate contact transmission to three recipient species: Ducks, chickens and turkeys. H5N6-2017 transmission to ducks was 100% efficient, but transmission to in-contact galliforme species was infrequent and unpredictable, thereby reflecting the European 2017–2018 H5N6 epidemiology. Although only two of 28 (7%) infected ducks died, the six turkeys and one chicken which became infected all died and displayed systemic H5N6-2017 dissemination, while pathogenesis in ducks was generally milder. Analysis of H5N6-2017 progeny in the contacts revealed no emergent polymorphisms in an infected duck, but the galliforme species included changes in the polymerase (PB2 A199T, PA D347A), matrix (M1 T218A) and neuraminidase genes (T88I). H5N6-2017 environmental contamination was associated with duck shedding.

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.virol.2021.03.010 

Source: Virology 559:74-85