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Emergence and multiple reassortments of French 2015–2016 highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza viruses

Briand, F.X., Niqueux, E., Schmitz, A., Hirchaud, E., Quenault, H., Allée, C., Le Prioux, A., Guillou-Cloarec, C., Ogor, K., Le Bras, M.O., Gares, H., Daniel, P., Fediaevsky, A., Martenot, C., Massin, P., Le Bouquin, S., Blanchard, Y., Eterradossi, N.
Infection, genetics, and evolution 2018 v.61 pp. 208-214
Influenza A virus, ancestry, chickens, eggs, enzymes, farms, flocks, genes, genotype, guineafowl, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, mixed infection, phylogeny, viruses, waterfowl, France
From November 2015 to August 2016, 81 outbreaks of highly pathogenic (HP) H5 avian influenza virus were detected in poultry farms from South-Western France. These viruses were mainly detected in farms raising waterfowl, but also in chicken or guinea fowl flocks, and did not induce severe signs in waterfowl although they did meet the HP criteria. Three different types of neuraminidases (N1, N2 and N9) were associated with the HP H5 gene. Full genomes sequences of 24 H5HP and 6 LP viruses that circulated in the same period were obtained by next generation sequencing, from direct field samples or after virus isolation in SPF embryonated eggs. Phylogenetic analyses of the eight viral segments confirmed that they were all related to the avian Eurasian lineage. In addition, analyses of the “Time of the Most Recent Common Ancestor” showed that the common ancestor of the H5HP sequences from South-Western France could date back to early 2014 (±1 year). This pre-dated the first detection of H5 HP in poultry farms and was consistent with a silent circulation of these viruses for several months. Finally, the phylogenetic study of the different segments showed that several phylogenetic groups could be established. Twelve genotypes of H5HP were detected implying that at least eleven reassortment events did occur after the H5HP cleavage site emerged. This indicates that a large number of co-infections with both highly pathogenic H5 and other avian influenza viruses must have occurred, a finding that lends further support to prolonged silent circulation.