Pigeons are resistant to experimental infection with H7N9 avian influenza virus

Avian Pathol. 2015 Oct;44(5):342-6. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2015.1055235.


To determine the susceptibility of pigeons to the newly emerged avian influenza virus subtype H7N9, we experimentally infected three different types of pigeons (meat, town, and racing) with two different doses (2 × 10(4) or 2 × 10(5) EID50) of H7N9 avian influenza virus A/Chicken/China/2013 by either intranasal and intraocular inoculation (IN + IO) or intravenous injection (IV). In addition, the potential transmission of H7N9 to pigeons by direct close contact with experimentally infected pigeons and chickens was assessed. Results showed that none of the experimentally infected pigeons exhibited any clinical signs regardless of the infection route and dose. Of the 12 racing pigeons that were randomly selected and necropsied, none of them had any gross lesions. In agreement with this finding, virus was not isolated from all pigeons. No detectable H7-specific antibodies were found in any pigeon. In contrast, 11 of 31 chickens that were either directly infected with H7N9 by IN + IO inoculation or by contact with IN + IO-infected chickens had conjunctivitis. Virus was isolated from all 31 chickens and H7-specific antibodies were detected in these chickens. However, none of the IV-infected chickens or chickens in direct contact with IV-infected chickens had any clinical signs. No virus was isolated from these chickens and no H7-specific antibody was detected. Overall, we conclude that pigeons are less or not susceptible to the H7N9 virus at the doses used and are not likely to serve as a reservoir for the virus. However, the virus does cause conjunctivitis in chickens and can transmit to susceptible hosts by direct contact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chickens
  • Columbidae
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N9 Subtype / immunology*
  • Influenza A Virus, H7N9 Subtype / isolation & purification
  • Influenza in Birds / immunology*
  • Influenza in Birds / virology
  • Random Allocation
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms