Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses, such as H5N1, continue to pose a serious threat to animal agriculture, wildlife and to public health. Controlling and mitigating this disease in domestic birds requires a better understanding of what makes some species highly susceptible (such as turkey and chicken) while others are highly resistant (such as pigeon and goose). Susceptibility to H5N1
varies both with species and strain; for example, species that are tolerant of most H5N1 strains, such as crows and ducks, have shown high mortality to emerging strains in recent years. Therefore, in this study we aimed to examine and compare the response of these six species, to low pathogenic avian influenza (H9N2) and two strains of H5N1 with differing virulence (clade 2.2 and clade 22.214.171.124) to
determine how susceptible and tolerant species respond to HPAI challenge. Birds were challenged in infection trials and samples (brain, ileum and lung) were collected at three time points post infection. The transcriptomic response of birds was examined using a comparative approach, revealing several important discoveries. We found that susceptible birds had high viral loads and strong neuro inflammatory response in the brain, which may explain the neurological symptoms and high mortality rates exhibited following H5N1 infection. We discovered differential regulation of genes associated with nerve function in the lung and ileum, with stronger differential regulation in resistant species. This has intriguing implications for the transmission of the virus to the central nervous
system (CNS) and may also indicate neuro-immune involvement at the mucosal surfaces. Additionally, we identified delayed timing of the immune response in ducks and crows following infection with the more deadly H5N1 strain, which may account for the higher mortality in these species caused by this strain. Lastly, we identified candidate genes with potential roles in susceptibility/resistance which provide excellent targets for future research. This study has helped elucidate the responses underlying susceptibility to H5N1 influenza in avian species, which will be critical in developing sustainable strategies for future control of HPAI in domestic poultry.
- avian influenza
- disease resistance