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Phylogenetic and antigenic characterization of reassortant H9N2 avian influenza viruses isolated from wild waterfowl in the East Dongting Lake wetland in 2011–2012

Yun Zhu1, Shixiong Hu2, Tian Bai1, Lei Yang1, Xiang Zhao1, Wenfei Zhu1, Yiwei Huang2, Zhihong Deng2, Hong Zhang4, Zhiyong Bai3, Mingdong Yu3, Jianfei Huang5 and Yuelong Shu1*

Author Affiliations

1 Key Laboratory for Medical Virology, National Health and Family Planning Commission, National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention, China CDC, Beijing 102206, China

2 Hunan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Changsha, China

3 Yueyang Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Yueyang, China

4 Hunan East Dongting Lake National Nature Reserve, Yueyang, China

5 Yueyang County Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Yueyang, China

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:77  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-77

Published: 30 April 2014



Wild waterfowl are recognized as the natural reservoir for influenza A viruses. Two distinct lineages, the American and Eurasian lineages, have been identified in wild birds. Gene flow between the two lineages is limited. The H9N2 virus has become prevalent in poultry throughout Eurasia, and mainly circulates in wild ducks and shorebirds in North America.


In this study, 22 H9N2 avian influenza viruses were isolated from wild waterfowl feces in East Dongting Lake Nature Reserve in November 2011 and March 2012. The phylogenetic, molecular, and antigenic characteristics of these viruses were analyzed based on analyses of the whole genome sequence of each isolate.


Phylogenetic analyses indicated that these H9N2 viruses were generated by reassortment events. The HA, NA, PA, and NS genes were derived from the American gene pool, and the other four genes were derived from the Eurasian gene pool. Antigenic analyses indicated that these viruses were significantly different from the Eurasian lineage viruses.


This study presents the isolation of novel intercontinental recombinant H9N2 viruses from wild waterfowl in the East Dongting Lake wetland. The novel genotype H9N2 virus has not been detected in poultry in the region yet, and may be transmitted to naïve birds in poultry farms. Therefore, our results highlight the need for ongoing surveillance of wild birds and poultry in this region.

Avian influenza virus; Wild waterfowl; H9N2 subtype; Dongting Lake; Reassortant