A Comparison of Amplification Methods to Detect Avian Influenza Viruses in California Wetlands Targeted via Remote Sensing of Waterfowl

Transbound Emerg Dis. 2020 Jun 27. doi: 10.1111/tbed.13612. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Migratory waterfowl, including geese and ducks, are indicated as the primary reservoir of avian influenza viruses (AIv) which can be subsequently spread to commercial poultry. The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) surveillance efforts of waterfowl for AIv have been largely discontinued in the contiguous United States. Consequently, the use of technologies to identify areas of high waterfowl density and detect the presence of AIv in habitat such as wetlands has become imperative. Here we identified two high waterfowl density areas in California using processed NEXt generation RADar (NEXRAD) and collected water samples to test the efficacy of two tangential flow ultrafiltration methods and two nucleic acid based AIv detection assays. Whole-segment amplification and long-read sequencing yielded more positive samples than standard M-segment qPCR methods (57.6% versus 3.0%, p < .0001). We determined that this difference in positivity was due to mismatches in published primers to our samples and that these mismatches would result in failing to detect in the vast majority of currently sequenced AIv genomes in public databases. The whole segment sequences were subsequently used to provide subtype and potential host information of the AIv environmental reservoir. There was no statistically significant difference in sequencing reads recovered from the RexeedTM filtration compared to the unfiltered surface water. This overall approach combining remote sensing, filtration and sequencing provides a novel and potentially more effective, surveillance approach for AIv.

Keywords: M-RTPCR; avian influenza virus detection; poultry industry; ultrafiltration; waterfowl; wetlands.