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J Virol. 2007 Oct;81(19):10389-401. Epub 2007 Jul 25.

The genesis and evolution of H9N2 influenza viruses in poultry from southern China, 2000 to 2005.

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International Institute of Infection and Immunity, Shantou University, Guangdong, China, and Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


H9N2 influenza viruses have become established in terrestrial poultry in different Asian countries over the last 2 decades. Our previous study demonstrated that quail harbor increasingly diverse novel H9N2 reassortants, including both Chicken/Beijing/1/94 (Ck/Bei-like) and Quail/Hong Kong/G1/97 (G1-like) viruses. However, since 1999, the genesis and evolution of H9N2 viruses in different types of poultry have not been investigated systematically. In the present study, H9N2 viruses isolated from chickens, ducks, and other minor poultry species were characterized genetically and antigenically. Our findings demonstrate that Ck/Bei-like H9N2 viruses have been introduced into many different types of poultry in southern China, including quail, partridges, chukar, pheasant, guinea fowl, and domestic ducks, while G1-like viruses were commonly detected in quail, less frequently detected in other minor poultry species, and not detected in chickens and ducks. Genetic analysis revealed 35 genotypes of H9N2 viruses, including 14 novel genotypes that have not been recognized before. Our results also suggested that two-way interspecies transmission exists between different types of poultry. Our study demonstrates that the long-term cocirculation of multiple virus lineages (e.g., H5N1 and H9N2 viruses) in different types of poultry has facilitated the frequent reassortment events that are mostly responsible for the current great genetic diversity in H9N2 and H5N1 influenza viruses in this region. This situation favors the emergence of influenza viruses with pandemic potential.

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