Evidence for the introduction, reassortment, and persistence of diverse influenza a viruses in Antarctica

Aeron C. Hurt, Yvonne C F Su, Malet Aban, Heidi Peck, Hilda Lau, Chantal Baas, Yi Mo Deng, Natalie Spirason, Patrik Ellström, Jorge Hernandez, Bjorn Olsen, Ian G. Barr, Dhanasekaran Vijaykrishna, Daniel Gonzalez-Acuna

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Avian influenza virus (AIV) surveillance in Antarctica during 2013 revealed the prevalence of evolutionarily distinct influenza viruses of the H11N2 subtype in Adélie penguins. Here we present results from the continued surveillance of AIV on the Antarctic Peninsula during 2014 and 2015. In addition to the continued detection of H11 subtype viruses in a snowy sheathbill during 2014, we isolated a novel H5N5 subtype virus from a chinstrap penguin during 2015. Gene sequencing and phylogenetic analysis revealed that the H11 virus detected in 2014 had a >99.1% nucleotide similarity to the H11N2 viruses isolated in 2013, suggesting the continued prevalence of this virus in Antarctica over multiple years. However, phylogenetic analysis of the H5N5 virus showed that the genome segments were recently introduced to the continent, except for the NP gene, which was similar to that in the endemic H11N2 viruses. Our analysis indicates geographically diverse origins for the H5N5 virus genes, with the majority of its genome segments derived from North American lineage viruses but the neuraminidase gene derived from a Eurasian lineage virus. In summary, we show the persistence of AIV lineages in Antarctica over multiple years, the recent introduction of gene segments from diverse regions, and reassortment between different AIV lineages in Antarctica, which together significantly increase our understanding of AIV ecology in this fragile and pristine environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9674-9682
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

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