Effect of Age on the Pathogenesis and Innate Immune Responses in Pekin Ducks Infected With Different H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses

Virus Res. 2012 Aug;167(2):196-206. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2012.04.015. Epub 2012 May 15.


The pathogenicity of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in domestic ducks varies between different viruses and is affected by the age of the ducks, with younger ducks presenting a more severe disease. In order to better understand the pathobiology of H5N1 HPAI in ducks including the role of host responses, 2 and 5-week-old Pekin ducks were infected with three different H5N1 HPAI viruses. Virus-induced pathology ranged from no clinical signs to severe disease and mortality, with the 2-week-old ducks being more severely affected by the more virulent viruses. However, these more virulent viruses induced higher body temperatures in the 5-week-old ducks than in the 2-week-old ducks indicating possible differences in innate immune responses. To analyze the ducks host responses to H5N1 HPAI virus infection, expression of innate immune-related genes was measured in the spleens and lungs of infected ducks at the peak of virus infection. IFN-α, RIG-I, and IL-6 RNA levels were increased in spleens regardless of the virus given and the age of the ducks, however differences were observed in the levels of up-regulation of IFN-α and RIG-I between the 2 and the 5-week-old ducks with the more virulent virus. Differences in IL-2 gene expression were also observed. In the lungs, the levels of expression of innate immune-related genes were lower than in the spleen, with mostly up-regulation of RIG-I and IL-6 and down-regulation of IFN-α and IL-2; no significant difference in expression was found between the 2 and the 5-week-old ducks. The differences observed in the innate immune responses to infection with H5N1 HPAI viruses could explain in part the differences in pathogenicity found between the 2 and 5-week-old ducks, however earlier time points after infection and additional innate immune-related genes should be examined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Ducks / immunology*
  • Ducks / virology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype / pathogenicity*
  • Influenza in Birds / immunology*
  • Influenza in Birds / pathology
  • Influenza in Birds / virology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Receptors, Immunologic / biosynthesis
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / pathology
  • Survival Analysis


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Immunologic