U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Li, L., A.S. Bowman, T.J. DeLiberto, M.L. Killian, S. Krauss, J.M. Nolting, M.K. Torchetti, A.M. Ramey, A.B. Reeves, D.E. Stallknecht, R.J. Webby, and X. Wan. 2018. Genetic evidence supports sporadic and independent introductions of subtype H5 low pathogenic avian influenza A viruses from wild birds to domestic poultry in North America. Journal of Virology 92(19):e00913-18. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00913-18


Wild-bird origin influenza A viruses (IAVs or avian influenza) have led to sporadic outbreaks among domestic poultry in the United States and Canada, resulting in economic losses through the implementation of costly containment practices and destruction of birds. We used evolutionary analyses of virus sequence data to determine that 78 H5 low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIVs) isolated from domestic poultry in the United States and Canada during 2001 to 2017 resulted from 18 independent virus introductions from wild birds. Within the wild-bird reservoir, the hemagglutinin gene segments of H5 LPAIVs exist primarily as two cocirculating genetic sublineages, and our findings suggest that the H5 gene segments flow within each migratory bird flyway and among adjacent flyways, with limited exchange between the nonadjacent Atlantic and Pacific Flyways. Phylogeographic analyses provided evidence that IAVs from dabbling ducks and swans/geese contributed to the emergence of viruses among domestic poultry. H5 LPAIVs isolated from commercial farm poultry (i.e., turkey) that were descended from a single introduction typically remained a single genotype, whereas those from live-bird markets sometimes led to multiple genotypes, reflecting the potential for reassortment with other IAVs circulating within live-bird markets. H5 LPAIVs introduced from wild birds to domestic poultry represent economic threats to the U.S. poultry industry, and our data suggest that such introductions have been sporadic, controlled effectively through production monitoring and a stamping-out policy, and are, therefore, unlikely to result in sustained detections in commercial poultry operations.

IMPORTANCE Integration of viral genome sequencing into influenza surveillance for wild birds and domestic poultry can elucidate evolutionary pathways of economically costly poultry pathogens. Evolutionary analyses of H5 LPAIVs detected in domestic poultry in the United States and Canada during 2001 to 2017 suggest that these viruses originated from repeated introductions of IAVs from wild birds, followed by various degrees of reassortment. Reassortment was observed where biosecurity was low and where opportunities for more than one virus to circulate existed (e.g., congregations of birds from different premises, such as live-bird markets). None of the H5 lineages identified were maintained for the long term in domestic poultry, suggesting that management strategies have been effective in minimizing the impacts of virus introductions on U.S. poultry production.

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