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Viruses . First Report of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Subtype H9N2 in African Houbara Bustards ( Chlamydotis undulata undulata) and Gamebirds in Morocco: Clinico-Pathological Findings, Molecular Characterization, and Associated Coinfections

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  • Viruses . First Report of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Subtype H9N2 in African Houbara Bustards ( Chlamydotis undulata undulata) and Gamebirds in Morocco: Clinico-Pathological Findings, Molecular Characterization, and Associated Coinfections

    Viruses


    . 2023 Dec 1;15(12):2374.
    doi: 10.3390/v15122374. First Report of Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Subtype H9N2 in African Houbara Bustards ( Chlamydotis undulata undulata) and Gamebirds in Morocco: Clinico-Pathological Findings, Molecular Characterization, and Associated Coinfections

    Yassmina Bidoudan 1 2 , Mohamed Mouahid 1 , Ouafaa Fassi Fihri 3 , Enrico Bollo 4 , Oumayma Arbani 5 , Mariette Ducatez 6 , Brahim Banni 1 2 , Noursaid Tligui 2 , Siham Fellahi 5



    AffiliationsAbstract

    We report in this paper the first detection of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) subtype H9N2 in houbara bustards and in gamebirds in Morocco. Starting in 2019, an increase in mortality rates related to respiratory distress was recorded in these species. Necropsy of the specimens revealed fibrinous sinusitis and tracheitis with intra-bronchial fibrin casts, which are consistent with H9N2 infection in chickens; therefore, implication of the virus in these outbreaks was strongly suspected. Consequently, between January 2020 and June 2023, birds with respiratory signs were necropsied for pathological lesions, tissue samples were examined by histopathology, and samples of trachea, lungs, and cecal tonsils were analyzed using quantitative real-time PCR for the detection of H9N2 virus. In addition, the sequencing of isolates was performed and lastly differential diagnosis with other respiratory pathogens was carried out. During the study period, 93 samples were collected from suspected H9N2 outbreaks, of which 30 tested positive for H9N2 virus: 23 Houbara bustards, 4 partridges, 2 quails, and 1 pheasant. Moreover, sequencing of the HA gene of the virus showed 97.33% nucleotide identity with strains reported previously in broilers in Morocco in 2017 and in 2022. Phylogenetic analysis grouped the Moroccan partridge isolates in the same cluster as viruses isolated in Morocco between 2016 and 2022, Algeria (2017), Burkina Faso (2017), Nigeria (2019), and Togo (2020). Additionally, 10 house sparrows from the premises of these birds were examined for the presence of H9N2 virus, revealing a 30% positivity rate. In conclusion, LPAIV H9N2 is circulating in houbara bustards and gamebirds in Morocco, and house sparrows might be a possible source of the infection. To our knowledge, this is the first report of LPAI H9N2 in the African species of houbara bustards worldwide and in gamebirds in Morocco.

    Keywords: Avian influenza; Chlamydotis undulata undulata; H9N2; Morocco; gamebird industry; houbara bustards.

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