Arch Virol. 2020 Apr 13. doi: 10.1007/s00705-020-04621-7. [Epub ahead of print]
Genetic variability of avian influenza virus subtype H5N8 in Egypt in 2017 and 2018.

Yehia N1, Hassan WMM1, Sedeek A1, Elhusseiny MH2.

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Since the incursion of avian influenza virus subtype H5N8 in Egypt in late 2016, it has spread rapidly, causing severe losses in poultry production. Multiple introductions of different reassorted strains were observed in 2017. In this study, a genetic characterization of the HA gene was carried out with 31 isolates selected from different governorates and sectors. Fifteen isolates were selected for NA gene sequence analysis. The HA and NA genes were divided into two subgroups (I and II) with positive selection pressure identified at positions 174 and 29, respectively. The HA gene contained two novel mutations in the antigenic sites, A and E. The HA nucleotide sequence identity ranged from 77 to 90% with different vaccine seeds. Full-genome sequence analysis was carried out for eight viruses, representing different governorates and sectors, to identify the predominant reassorted strain in Egypt. All viruses were similar to a reassorted strain of clade that has been identified in Germany, among other countries. Analysis of these viruses revealed mutations specific to Egyptian strains and not the original virus characterized in 2017 (A/duck/Egypt/F446/2017), with a novel antiviral resistance marker, V27A, indicating resistance to amantadine in the M2 protein of two strains. The results indicate increased variability of circulating H5N8 viruses compared to earlier viruses sequenced in 2016 and 2017. The predominant reassorted virus circulating in 2017 and 2018 originated from an early 2017 strain. It is important to continue this surveillance of avian influenza viruses to monitor the evolution of circulating viruses.