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Pathogenicity of two recent Western Mediterranean West Nile virus isolates in a wild bird species indigenous to Southern Europe: the red-legged partridge

Elena Sotelo1, Ana Valeria Gutierrez-Guzmán2, Javier del Amo1, Francisco Llorente1, Mehdi El-Harrak3, Elisa Pérez-Ramírez2, Juan Manuel Blanco4, Ursula Höfle2 and Miguel Angel Jiménez-Clavero1*

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Investigación en Sanidad Animal del Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria (CISA-INIA), Ctra Algete-El Casar, s/n, 28130 Valdeolmos (Madrid), Spain

2 Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos IREC (CSIC-UCLM-JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, 13005 Ciudad Real, Spain

3 Biopharma Laboratory, Km 2 Route de Casablanca, BP 4569 Rabat Akkari, Morocco

4 Centro de Estudios de Rapaces Ibéricas CERI (JCCM), Sevilleja de la Jara, 45671 Sevilleja de la Jara, Spain

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Veterinary Research 2011, 42:11  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-42-11

Published: 18 January 2011


West Nile virus (WNV) is an emerging zoonotic pathogen whose geographic spread and incidence in humans, horses and birds has increased significantly in recent years. WNV has long been considered a mild pathogen causing self-limiting outbreaks. This notion has changed as WNV is causing large epidemics with a high impact on human and animal health. This has been particularly noteworthy since its introduction into North America in 1999. There, native bird species have been shown to be highly susceptible to WNV infection and disease with high mortalities. For this reason, the effect of WNV infection in North American bird species has been thoroughly studied by means of experimental inoculations in controlled trials. To a lesser extent, European wild birds have been shown to be affected clinically by WNV infection. Yet experimental studies on European wild bird species are lacking. The red-legged partridge (Alectoris rufa) is a gallinaceous bird indigenous to the Iberian Peninsula, widely distributed in South Western Europe. It plays a key role in the Mediterranean ecosystem and constitutes an economically important game species. As such it is raised intensively in outdoor facilities. In this work, red-legged partridges were experimentally infected with two recent WNV isolates from the Western Mediterranean area: Morocco/2003 and Spain/2007. All inoculated birds became viremic and showed clinical disease, with mortality rates of 70% and 30%, respectively. These results show that Western Mediterranean WNV variants can be pathogenic for some European bird species, such as the red-legged partridge.