Satellite Tracking on the Flyways of Brown-Headed Gulls and Their Potential Role in the Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus-
Parntep Ratanakorn<SUP>1</SUP>, Anuwat Wiratsudakul<SUP>1</SUP>, Witthawat Wiriyarat<SUP>1</SUP>, Krairat Eiamampai<SUP>2</SUP>, Adrian H. Farmer<SUP>3</SUP>, Robert G. Webster<SUP>4</SUP>, Kridsada Chaichoune<SUP>1</SUP>, Sarin Suwanpakdee<SUP>1</SUP>, Duangrat Pothieng<SUP>2</SUP>, Pilaipan Puthavathana<SUP>5</SUP><SUP>*</SUP>
1 Faculty of Veterinary Science, Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand, 2 Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Ministry of Natural Resource and Environment, Bangkok, Thailand, 3 Wild Ecological Solutions, Fort Collins, Colorado, United States of America, 4 Division of Virology, Department of Infectious Diseases, St. Jude Children Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, United States of America, 5 Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
Brown-headed gulls (Larus brunnicephalus), winter visitors of Thailand, were tracked by satellite telemetry during 2008–2011 for investigating their roles in the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus spread. Eight gulls negative for influenza virus infection were marked with solar-powered satellite platform transmitters at Bang Poo study site in Samut Prakarn province, Thailand; their movements were monitored by the Argos satellite tracking system, and locations were mapped. Five gulls completed their migratory cycles, which spanned 7 countries (China, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam) affected by the HPAI H5N1 virus. Gulls migrated from their breeding grounds in China to stay overwinter in Thailand and Cambodia; while Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Vietnam were the places of stopovers during migration. Gulls traveled an average distance of about 2400 km between Thailand and China and spent 1–2 weeks on migration. Although AI surveillance among gulls was conducted at the study site, no AI virus was isolated and no H5N1 viral genome or specific antibody was detected in the 75 gulls tested, but 6.6% of blood samples were positive for pan-influenza A antibody. No AI outbreaks were reported in areas along flyways of gulls in Thailand during the study period. Distance and duration of migration, tolerability of the captive gulls to survive the HPAI H5N1 virus challenge and days at viral shedding after the virus challenging suggested that the Brown-headed gull could be a potential species for AI spread, especially among Southeast Asian countries, the epicenter of H5N1 AI outbreak.
Citation: Ratanakorn P, Wiratsudakul A, Wiriyarat W, Eiamampai K, Farmer AH, et al. (2012) Satellite Tracking on the Flyways of Brown-Headed Gulls and Their Potential Role in the Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 Virus. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49939. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049939
Editor: Yi Guan, The University of Hong Kong, China
Received: June 15, 2012; Accepted: October 18, 2012; Published: November 28, 2012
Copyright: © 2012 Ratanakorn et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: This study was a part of the “Avian Influenza Surveillance in Thailand-Studies at Human-Animal Interface” project supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 1U19CI000399 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC. PP, the grant’s principal investigator, is supported by Thailand Research Fund for Senior Research Scholar. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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