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Emerg Infect Dis. 2001 Jul-Aug;7(4):726-9.

Experimental infection of chickens as candidate sentinels for West Nile virus.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, P.O. Box 2087, Fort Collins, CO 80522, USA.


We evaluated the susceptibility, duration and intensity of viremia, and serologic responses of chickens to West Nile (WN) virus (WNV-NY99) infection by needle, mosquito, or oral inoculation. None of 21 infected chickens developed clinical disease, and all these developed neutralizing antibodies. Although viremias were detectable in all but one chicken, the magnitude (mean peak viremia <10,000 PFU/mL) was deemed insufficient to infect vector mosquitoes. WNV-NY99 was detected in cloacal and/or throat swabs from 13 of these chickens, and direct transmission of WNV-NY99 between chickens occurred once (in 16 trials), from a needle-inoculated bird. Nine chickens that ingested WNV-NY99 failed to become infected. The domestic chickens in this study were susceptible to WN virus infection, developed detectable antibodies, survived infection, and with one exception failed to infect cage mates. These are all considered positive attributes of a sentinel species for WN virus surveillance programs.

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