Serological Evidence for Japanese Encephalitis and West Nile Virus Infections in Domestic Birds in Cambodia

Front Vet Sci. 2020 Jan 29;7:15. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2020.00015. eCollection 2020.


Mosquito-borne flaviviruses with an enzootic transmission cycle like Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile virus (WNV) are a major public health concern. The circulation of JEV in Southeast Asia is well-documented, and the important role of pigs as amplification hosts for the virus is long known. The influence of other domestic animals especially poultry that lives in high abundance and close proximity to humans is not intensively analyzed. Another understudied field in Asia is the presence of the closely related WNV. Such analyses are difficult to perform due to the intense antigenic cross-reactivity between these viruses and the lack of suitable standardized serological assays. The main objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of JEV and WNV flaviviruses in domestic birds, detailed in chickens and ducks, in three different Cambodian provinces. We determined the flavivirus seroprevalence using an hemagglutination inhibition assay (HIA). Additionally, we investigated in positive samples the presence of JEV and WNV neutralizing antibodies (nAb) using foci reduction neutralization test (FRNT). We found 29% (180/620) of the investigated birds positive for flavivirus antibodies with an age-depended increase of the seroprevalence (OR = 1.04) and a higher prevalence in ducks compared to chicken (OR = 3.01). Within the flavivirus-positive birds, we found 43% (28/65) with nAb against JEV. We also observed the expected cross-reactivity between JEV and WNV, by identifying 18.5% double-positive birds that had higher titers of nAb than single-positive birds. Additionally, seven domestic birds (10.7%) showed only nAb against WNV and no nAb against JEV. Our study provides evidence for an intense JEV circulation in domestic birds in Cambodia, and the first serological evidence for WNV presence in Southeast Asia since decades. These findings mark the need for a re-definition of areas at risk for JEV and WNV transmission, and the need for further and intensified surveillance of mosquito-transmitted diseases in domestic animals.

Keywords: Cambodia; Japanese encephalitis virus; West Nile virus; domestic birds; poultry; serology.