CIE Spotlight: Migratory Birds Reinforce Local Circulation of Avian Influenza Viruses

Marcel K.
Marcel K.

TitleMigratory Birds Reinforce Local Circulation of Avian Influenza Viruses

Authors: Verhagen, Josanne H.; van Dijk, Jacintha G. B.; Oanh Vuong; Bestebroer, Theo; Lexmond, Pascal; Klaassen, Marcel; Fouchier, Ron A. M.

Source: PLOS ONE, 9 (11), NOV 12 2014

Brief summary of the paper: Migratory and resident hosts have been hypothesized to fulfil distinct roles in infectious disease dynamics. However, the contribution of resident and migratory hosts to wildlife infectious disease epidemiology, including that of low pathogenic avian influenza virus (LPAIV) in wild birds, has largely remained unstudied.

During an autumn H3 LPAIV epizootic in free-living mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) — a partially migratory species — we identified resident and migratory host populations using stable hydrogen isotope analysis of flight feathers.

We investigated the role of migratory and resident hosts separately in the introduction and maintenance of H3 LPAIV during the epizootic. To test this we analysed (i) H3 virus kinship, (ii) temporal patterns in H3 virus prevalence and shedding and (iii) H3-specific antibody prevalence in relation to host migratory strategy. We demonstrate that the H3 LPAIV strain causing the epizootic most likely originated from a single introduction, followed by local clonal expansion. The H3 LPAIV strain was genetically unrelated to H3 LPAIV detected both before and after the epizootic at the study site.

During the LPAIV epizootic, migratory mallards were more often infected with H3 LPAIV than residents. Low titres of H3-specific antibodies were detected in only a few residents and migrants.

Our results suggest that in this LPAIV epizootic, a single H3 virus was present in resident mallards prior to arrival of migratory mallards followed by a period of virus amplification, importantly associated with the influx of migratory mallards. Thus migrants are suggested to act as local amplifiers rather than the often suggested role as vectors importing novel strains from afar.

Our study exemplifies that a multifaceted interdisciplinary approach offers promising opportunities to elucidate the role of migratory and resident hosts in infectious disease dynamics in wildlife.