Since prehistoric times, the Bering Strait area (Beringia) has served as an avenue of dispersal between the Old and the New Worlds. On a field expedition to this area, we collected fecal samples from dabbling ducks, geese, shorebirds, and gulls on the Chukchi Peninsula, Siberia, and Pt. Barrow, Alaska, and characterized the subtypes of avian influenza virus present in them. Four of 202 samples (2%) from Alaska were positive for influenza A virus RNA in two independent polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based screening assays, while all shorebird samples from the Chukchi Peninsula were negative. Subtypes H3N8 and H6N1 were recorded once, while subtype H8N4 was found in two samples. Full-length sequences were obtained from the three unique isolates, and phylogenetic analysis with representative sequences for the Eurasian and North American lineages of influenza A virus showed that one HA gene clustered with the Eurasian rather than the North American lineage. However, the closest relative to this sequence was a North American isolate from Delaware described in 2002, indicating that a H6 spillover from Asia has established itself in North America.

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Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Wahlgren, J., Waldenström, J., Sahlin, S., Haemig, P., Fouchier, R., Osterhaus, A., … Olsen, B. (2008). Gene segment reassortment between American and asian lineages of avian influenza virus from waterfowl in the Beringia area. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 8(6), 783–790. doi:10.1089/vbz.2007.0274