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Arrival of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 viruses in Europe

Monday 09 Nov 20
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Ron Fouchier
Professor
Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam

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Martin Beer
Professor
Friedrich Loeffler Institut - Bundesforschungsinstitut Fuer
The first new arrivals of H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in the 2020-2021 winter in Europe have been detected. Scientists in WP06 from VEO are working together to yield novel scientific insights in the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The first new arrivals of H5 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses in the 2020-2021 winter in Europe have been detected. Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of the H5N8 and H5N1 subtypes were first detected in the Netherlands in October 2020 by scientists from Wageningen Bio-veterinary Research in Lelystad and Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. In early November, related HPAI H5 viruses were reported in Germany by the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut Greifswald (HPAIV H5N8 and H5N5), and in the United Kingdom by the Animal and Plant Health Agency Weybridge (HPAIV H5N8).

VEO scientists were already on high alert for the arrival of the viruses because of reports on outbreaks in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan over the summer. Previously, scientists from COMPARE/VEO initiated the Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses to investigate the role of migratory wild birds in the global spread of avian influenza H5N8 in 2014/2015 (Science 354:213-7, 2016), pointing to Russia as a potential site from which early warning signals may be expected. Subsequently, the consortium investigated the spread of multiple reassortants during the 2016/2017 H5 avian influenza epidemic in Eurasia (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 117:20814-25, 2020), which is again relevant this year, because of the diversity of viruses detected.

The first virus detections concerned H5N8 viruses that were closely related to viruses from Kazakhstan, pointing towards autumn bird migration from eastern Europe and Asia as a source for the virus. This virus was found in dead wild birds and wild birds caught alive, and subsequently also in poultry. The outbreak is associated with substantial mortality in a wide range of wild bird species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and raptors. H5N1 viruses were also detected in wild birds in The Netherlands, starting from October 16. These viruses have HA and MP genes related to the H5N8 viruses, but the other genes of these viruses appear to originate from other avian influenza virus lineages circulating in Eurasia and that appear to have been undetected for quite some time. Following these events, yet another reassortant, of the H5N5 subtype, was detected in Germany.

VEO scientists Thijs Kuiken, Ron Fouchier, Martin Beer and Mark Wooolhouse have called upon scientists around the globe to join them again in a Global Consortium for H5N8 and Related Influenza Viruses to share virus sequence data and associated metadata via INSDC, GISAID or other databases without delays. Hopefully this collaborative study will again yield novel scientific insights in the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

In the VEO project, this work is being done under Work Package 06, Zoonotic Wildlife Use Case Scenario.

This WP is aimed at Project objective 6 - To test and evaluate the VEO system in a zoonotic wildlife disease use case scenario. The main aim of this ZOWI scenario is to substantially improve the prediction of incursion and spread of HPAIV, USUV, and WNV via wild birds in Europe, as well as to assess the risk in real time of the zoonotic and pathogenic potential of emerging virus strains. The key questions of WP 06 are:

1. Can we predict and inform control of the incursion and spread of zoonotic avian viruses by sophisticated predictive analytics combining big-data surveillance and molecular sources?

2. Can we assess the zoonotic and pathogenic risk of zoonotic avian viruses in real-time by use of a fieldable high-throughput sequencing assay?

3. Can we identify the key wild bird species acting as reservoirs or long-distance carriers of zoonotic avian viruses in Europe by a combination of tools developed in VEO for molecular and serological surveillance?


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https://www.veo-europe.eu/news/Nyhed?id=%7B2C91FF48-1D8D-4464-B4C7-6F47E6183C63%7D
23 JULY 2021