Avian influenza viruses are pathogens of global concern to both animal and human health. Wild birds are the natural reservoir of avian influenza viruses and facilitate virus transport over large distances. Surprisingly, limited research has been performed to determine avian influenza host species and virus dynamics in wild birds on the African continent, including South Africa. This study described the first wild bird surveillance efforts for influenza A viruses in KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa after the 2017/2018 outbreak with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N8 in poultry. A total of 550 swab samples from 278 migratory waterfowl were tested using real-time RT-PCR methods. Two samples (0.7%) were positive for avian influenza virus based on the matrix gene real-time RT-PCR but were negative for the hemagglutinin subtypes H5 and H7. Unfortunately, no sequence information or viable virus could be retrieved from the samples. This study shows that avian influenza viruses are present in the South African wild bird population, emphasizing the need for more extensive surveillance studies to determine the South African avian influenza gene pool and relevant local host species.

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doi.org/10.3390/pathogens8040163, hdl.handle.net/1765/120384
Department of Virology

Poen, M., Fouchier, R., Webby, R. J., Webster, R.G. (Robert G.), & El Zowalaty, M.E. (Mohamed E.). (2019). Evidence of the presence of low pathogenic avian influenza a viruses inwild waterfowl in 2018 in south africa. Pathogens, 8(4). doi:10.3390/pathogens8040163