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Pathobiology and transmission of highly and low pathogenic avian influenza viruses in European quail (Coturnix c. coturnix)

Kateri Bertran1*, Roser Dolz1, Núria Busquets1, Virginia Gamino2, Júlia Vergara-Alert1, Aida J Chaves1, Antonio Ramis13, Xavier F Abad1, Ursula Höfle2 and Natàlia Majó13

Author Affiliations

1 Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal (CReSA), UAB-IRTA, Campus de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, (Cerdanyola del Vallès), 08193, Spain

2 Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos, IREC (CSIC, UCLM, JCCM), Ronda de Toledo s/n, Ciudad Real, 13071, Spain

3 Departament de Sanitat i Anatomia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra, (Cerdanyola del Vallès), 08193, Spain

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Veterinary Research 2013, 44:23  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-44-23

Published: 28 March 2013

Abstract

European quail (Coturnix c. coturnix) may share with Japanese quail (Coturnix c. japonica) its potential as an intermediate host and reservoir of avian influenza viruses (AIV). To elucidate this question, European quail were experimentally challenged with two highly pathogenic AIV (HPAIV) (H7N1/HP and H5N1/HP) and one low pathogenic AIV (LPAIV) (H7N2/LP). Contact animals were also used to assess the viral transmission among birds. Severe neurological signs and mortality rates of 67% (H7N1/HP) and 92% (H5N1/HP) were observed. Although histopathological findings were present in both HPAIV-infected groups, H5N1/HP-quail displayed a broader viral antigen distribution and extent of microscopic lesions. Neither clinical nor pathological involvement was observed in LPAIV-infected quail. Consistent long-term viral shedding and effective transmission to naive quail was demonstrated for the three studied AIV. Drinking water arose as a possible transmission route and feathers as a potential origin of HPAIV dissemination. The present study demonstrates that European quail may play a major role in AI epidemiology, highlighting the need to further understand its putative role as an intermediate host for avian/mammalian reassortant viruses.