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Homo- and Heterosubtypic Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Exposure on H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus Infection in Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)

Costa, Taiana P., Brown, Justin D., Howerth, Elizabeth W., Stallknecht, David E., Swayne, David E., Davis, Todd
Aix sponsa, Charadriiformes, Influenza A virus, avian influenza, disease outbreaks, disease reservoirs, hemagglutinins, humoral immunity, monitoring, risk, sialidase, survival rate, virus replication, virus transmission, viruses, wild birds
Wild birds in the Orders Anseriformes and Charadriiformes are the natural reservoirs for avian influenza (AI) viruses. Although they are often infected with multiple AI viruses, the significance and extent of acquired immunity in these populations is not understood. Pre-existing immunity to AI virus has been shown to modulate the outcome of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus infection in multiple domestic avian species, but few studies have addressed this effect in wild birds. In this study, the effect of pre-exposure to homosubtypic (homologous hemagglutinin) and heterosubtypic (heterologous hemagglutinin) low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses on the outcome of a H5N1 HPAI virus infection in wood ducks (Aix sponsa) was evaluated. Pre-exposure of wood ducks to different LPAI viruses did not prevent infection with H5N1 HPAI virus, but did increase survival associated with H5N1 HPAI virus infection. The magnitude of this effect on the outcome of the H5N1 HPAI virus infection varied between different LPAI viruses, and was associated both with efficiency of LPAI viral replication in wood ducks and the development of a detectable humoral immune response. These observations suggest that in naturally occurring outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI, birds with pre-existing immunity to homologous hemagglutinin or neuraminidase subtypes of AI virus may either survive H5N1 HPAI virus infection or live longer than naïve birds and, consequently, could pose a greater risk for contributing to viral transmission and dissemination. The mechanisms responsible for this protection and/or the duration of this immunity remain unknown. The results of this study are important for surveillance efforts and help clarify epidemiological data from outbreaks of H5N1 HPAI virus in wild bird populations.