The mallard Anas platyrhynchos is a reservoir species for influenza A virus in the northern hemisphere, with particularly high prevalence rates prior to as well as during its prolonged autumn migration. It has been proposed that the virus is brought from the breeding grounds and transmitted to conspecifics during subsequent staging during migration, and so a better understanding of the natal origin of staging ducks is vital to deciphering the dynamics of viral movement pathways. Ottenby is an important stopover site in southeast Sweden almost halfway downstream in the major Northwest European flyway, and is used by millions of waterfowl each year. Here, mallards were captured and sampled for influenza A virus infection, and positive samples were subtyped in order to study possible links to the natal area, which were determined by a novel approach combining banding recovery data and isotopic measurements (δ2H) of feathers grown on breeding grounds. Geographic assignments showed that the core natal areas of studied mallards were in Estonia, southern and central Finland, and northwestern Russia. This study demonstrates a clear temporal succession of latitudes of natal origin during the course of autumn migration. We also demonstrate a corresponding and concomitant shift in virus subtypes. Acknowledging that these two different patterns were based in part upon different data, a likely interpretation worth further testing is that the early arriving birds with more proximate origins have different influenza A subtypes than the more distantly originating late autumn birds. If true, this knowledge would allow novel insight into the origins and transmission of the influenza A virus among migratory hosts previously unavailable through conventional approaches.

Estonia, Europe, Finland, Influenza virus A, Northern Hemisphere, Russian Federation, Sweden, anas platyrhynchos, animal, article, autumn, avian influenza, bird, bird disease, breeding, chemistry, community succession, controlled study, disease carrier, duck, ducks and geese, feather, female, genetics, geographic distribution, geographic origin, influenza A, male, migratory species, molecular typing, nonhuman, population migration, prevalence, species diversity, virology, virus carrier,
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Gunnarsson, G, Latorre-Margalef, N, Hobson, K.A, van Wilgenburg, S.L, Elmberg, J, Olsen, B, … Waldenström, J. (2012). Disease dynamics and bird migration-linking mallards Anas platyrhynchos and subtype diversity of the influenza a virus in time and space. PLoS ONE, 7(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0035679