Variation in the responses of wild species of duck, gull, and wader to inoculation with a wild-bird-origin H6N2 low pathogenicity avian influenza virus

Avian Dis. 2013 Sep;57(3):581-6. doi: 10.1637/10458-112712-Reg.1.


There is poor understanding of host responses to avian influenza virus (AIV) infection in wild birds, with most experimental studies using captive-bred birds and highly pathogenic AIVs that have an early endpoint. The objective of this study was to experimentally assess antibody responses and patterns of viral excretion in wild birds challenged with a low pathogenicity AIV. Ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres), silver gulls (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae), and wandering whistling ducks (Dendrocygna arcuata) were challenged with a H6N2 virus, and blood, cloacal, and oropharyngeal (OP) swabs were analyzed from each bird over 28 days, with serology conducted on the ducks for a further 7 mo. Nineteen of 22 birds showed evidence of infection, with respiratory infection prevalent in the turnstones and gulls as mostly low titer viral excretion to 4 days postinoculation (DPI) with gastrointestinal replication detected in only one turnstone. In AIV naive ducks, there was gastrointestinal tropism with moderately high titer viral excretion via the cloaca to 6 DPI and low-grade OP viral excretion to 4 DPI. The hemagglutination inhibition antibody response was poor in the ducks, declining from 19 to 56 DPI, with higher titer responses in the gulls and turnstones. All infected birds responded with elevated nucleoprotein antibodies (in competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) by 7-10 DPI, and in the ducks these waned slowly after 42 DPI and were long-lived to at least 8 mo. The interspecies variability in response was consistent with a subtype that had adapted well in ducks, while the response of the turnstones may have been influenced by preexisting immunity to AIV. These findings provide insight into AIV infection dynamics in wild birds and highlight the need for further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood / virology
  • Charadriiformes*
  • Cloaca / virology
  • Ducks*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / veterinary
  • Hemagglutination Inhibition Tests / veterinary
  • Influenza A virus / pathogenicity*
  • Influenza A virus / physiology*
  • Influenza in Birds / immunology
  • Influenza in Birds / virology*
  • Oropharynx / virology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary
  • Species Specificity
  • Virulence
  • Virus Shedding
  • Western Australia