Susceptibility of Chickens to Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) Viruses of Wild Bird- and Poultry-Associated Subtypes

Bergervoet, Saskia A.; Germeraad, Evelien A.; Alders, Marc; Roose, Marit M.; Engelsma, Marc Y.; Heutink, Rene; Bouwstra, Ruth; Fouchier, Ron A.M.; Beerens, Nancy


Analysis of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses circulating in the Netherlands in a previous study revealed associations of specific hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) subtypes with wild bird or poultry hosts. In this study, we identified putative host associations in LPAI virus internal proteins. We show that LPAI viruses isolated from poultry more frequently carried the allele A variant of the nonstructural protein (NS) gene, compared to wild bird viruses. We determined the susceptibility of chickens to wild bird-associated subtypes H3N8 and H4N6 and poultry-associated subtypes H8N4 and H9N2, carrying either NS allele A or B, in an infection experiment. We observed variations in virus shedding and replication patterns, however, these did not correlate with the predicted wild bird- or poultry-associations of the viruses. The experiment demonstrated that LPAI viruses of wild bird-associated subtypes can replicate in chickens after experimental infection, despite their infrequent detection in poultry. Although the NS1 protein is known to play a role in immune modulation, no differences were detected in the limited innate immune response to LPAI virus infection. This study contributes to a better understanding of the infection dynamics of LPAI viruses in chickens.