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Virus Genes. 2010 Feb;40(1):94-105. doi: 10.1007/s11262-009-0423-5. Epub 2009 Nov 15.

Haemagglutinin and neuraminidase characterization of low pathogenic H5 and H7 avian influenza viruses isolated from Northern pintails (Anas acuta) in Japan, with special reference to genomic and biogeographical aspects.

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Laboratory of Zoonoses, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kitasato University, 35-1, Higashi 23, Towada-shi, Aomori 034-8628, Japan.


Pintails constitute an important host of avian influenza viruses (AIVs). Genetic, molecular, and antigenic characteristics of H5 and H7 AIVs, which we isolated from northern pintails (Anas acuta) wintering in Japan, were analyzed and found to be linked to various ecological features, chiefly in terms of gene geography, as shaped by various migratory aquatic host species. Although all the isolates were found to be of low pathogenicity (LP), we explored gene predispositions that may potentially underlie tentative transition to high pathogenicity (HP). Evolutionarily, the HA and NA genes of the isolates affiliated mostly with Eurasian lineage. The viruses closely related to ours were derived from China, Korea, Mongolia, Japan, and Australia. Comprehensive ecophylogenetic evaluations revealed that the pintail populations we sampled might have given rise to or been involved in the emergence of a LPAI H7N6 subtype that caused outbreaks in quail (Coturnix japonica) farms in Japan, as well as of the first H5N9 subtype ever isolated in Asia. The latter strain isolated by us showed, yet, notable affinity to certain North American and Australian strains, thereby signifying apparent intercontinental interfaces accounted for by extensive water-bird flyways. Noticeable conservation of certain antigenic sites within both Eurasian and North American H7 HAs is apparently an outcome of their advantageous survival value, in terms of restricted immunogenicity. Besides, the Japanese-Korean-Siberian regional axis seems to be particularly important for ongoing generation of novel viral strains due to conveyance of certain genes and genomes by migratory ducks, including such that circulate among pigs and human.

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