Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is essentially a poultry disease. Wild birds have traditionally not been involved in its spread, but the epidemiology of HPAI has changed in recent years. After its emergence in southeastern Asia in 1996, H5 HPAI virus of the Goose/Guangdong lineage has evolved into several sub-lineages, some of which have spread over thousands of kilometers via long-distance migration of wild waterbirds. In order to determine whether the virus is adapting to wild waterbirds, we experimentally inoculated the HPAI H5N8 virus clade group A from 2014 into four key waterbird species-Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope), common teal (Anas crecca), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), and common pochard (Aythya ferina)-and compared virus excretion and disease severity with historical data of the HPAI H5N1 virus infection from 2005 in the same four species. Our results showed that excretion was highest in Eurasian wigeons for the 2014 virus, whereas excretion was highest in common pochards and mallards for the 2005 virus. The 2014 virus infection was subclinical in all four waterbird species, while the 2005 virus caused clinical disease and pathological changes in over 50% of the common pochards. In chickens, the 2014 virus infection caused systemic disease and high mortality, similar to the 2005 virus. In conclusion, the evidence was strongest for Eurasian wigeons as long-distance vectors for HPAI H5N8 virus from 2014. The implications of the switch in species-specific virus excretion and decreased disease severity may be that the HPAI H5 virus more easily spreads in the wild-waterbird population.

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Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41426-018-0070-9, hdl.handle.net/1765/105922
Journal Emerging Microbes and Infections
van den Brand, J.M.A, Verhagen, J.H, Veldhuis Kroeze, E.J.B, van de Bildt, M.W.G, Bodewes, R, Herfst, S, … Kuiken, T. (2018). Wild ducks excrete highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N8 (2014-2015) without clinical or pathological evidence of disease article. Emerging Microbes and Infections, 7(1). doi:10.1038/s41426-018-0070-9