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J Gen Virol. 2013 Jan;94(Pt 1):30-9. doi: 10.1099/vir.0.046581-0. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Genetic and antigenic characteristics of H4 subtype avian influenza viruses in Korea and their pathogenicity in quails, domestic ducks and mice.

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Avian Disease Division, Animal, Plant and Fisheries Quarantine and Inspection Agency, 175 Anyangro, Anyangsi, Gyeonggido, Republic of Korea.


In Korea, a nationwide surveillance programme was implemented in 2003 to identify highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (AIVs). AIVs belonging to one of the most common haemagglutinin subtypes, H4, were isolated from two domestic ducks and 52 wild birds between 2004 and 2010. These H4 AIVs could be further classified into three neuraminidase subtypes: H4N6 (94.4%), H4N2 (3.7%) and H4N3 (1.9%). Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the H4 AIVs had a variety of genetic constellations, with at least nine different genotypes represented. The pathogenicity of these H4 viruses was assessed in quails, domestic ducks and mice. None of the H4 AIVs induced clinical signs in quails or domestic ducks. Viral shedding in quails was relatively high, and virus was recovered up to 5-7 days post-inoculation (p.i.) in oropharyngeal swabs, but the viruses replicated poorly in domestic ducks. Quails may act as an intermediate host in which AIVs are amplified and transmitted to other species. In mice, all of the AIVs were recovered efficiently at relatively high titres from the lungs up to 7 days p.i., demonstrating the potential for AIVs to infect mice directly without prior adaptation. None of the AIVs induced clinical signs nor was any lethal to infected mice. However, there was significant loss of body weight in mice infected with viruses of duck origin. It is suggested that the active surveillance of influenza viruses needs to be enhanced in domestic poultry as well as in wild birds, and that it should include assessment of pathogenicity in animal models.

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