Ecology of avian influenza viruses in migratory birds wintering within the Yangtze River wetlands

Decheng Wang, Mingxin Li, Chaochao Xiong, Yi Yan, Juefu Hu, Mengchan Hao, Bilin Liang, Jing Chen, Guang Chen, Guoxiang Yang, Yong Li, Jun Zhang, Marina Gulyaeva, Alexander Shestopalov, Weifeng Shi, Yuhai Bi, Haizhou Liu, Hanzhong Wang, Di Liu, Jianjun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Migratory birds are considered natural reservoirs of avian influenza A viruses (AIVs). To further our viral ecology knowledge and understand the subsequent risk posed by wild birds, we conducted a 4-year surveillance study of AIVs in the bird wintering wetlands of the Yangtze River, China. We collected over 8000 samples and isolated 122 AIV strains. Analyses were then carried out with 108 novel sequenced genomes and data were deposited in GISAID and other public databases. The results showed that the Yangtze River wintering wetlands functioned as a mixing ground, where various subtypes of AIVs were detected harboring a high diversity of nucleotide sequences; moreover, a portion of AIV gene segments were persistent inter-seasonally. Phylogenetic incongruence presented complex reassortment events and distinct patterns among various subtypes. In addition, we observed that viral gene segments in wintering wetlands were closely related to known North American isolates, indicating that intercontinental gene flow occurred. Notably, highly pathogenic H5 and low pathogenic H9 viruses, which usually circulate in poultry, were found to have crossed the poultry/wild bird interface, with the viruses introduced to wintering birds. Overall, this study represented the largest AIV surveillance effort of wild birds within the Yangtze River wintering wetlands. Surveillance data highlighted the important role of wintering wild birds in the ecology of AIVs and may enable future early warnings of novel AIV emergence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Bulletin
Early online date25 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Avian influenza viruses
  • Migratory birds
  • Yangtze River wetlands

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