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Studies on Reassortant H5 Viruses in the Netherlands


Whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis was applied to establish the relationship among viruses responsible for outbreaks of H5N8 avian influenza in the Netherlands in 2016*.

The study was initiated following the emergence of clusters of avian influenza in commercial poultry and in wild birds.  Evaluation of virus isolates revealed that multiple introductions of H5N8 virus occurred and that the specific viruses on five infected commercial farms were not closely related.  In the Biddinghuizen cluster of outbreaks, farm-to-farm transmission was presumed to have occurred although separate introductions to the affected farms from a common source could not be excluded.  The H5N8 viruses which emerged in the Netherlands in 2016 were distinct from the isolates obtained in 2014.

The H5N8 viruses introduced in 2016 were novel derivatives of the Russia-Mongolia H5 clade  Molecular dating indicated that reassortant events occurred during 2016 in wild birds congregating on the border of Russia and Mongolia.  The authors demonstrated differences in the nucleoprotein, polymerase and nuclear protein among isolates.

The conclusion from the study is that increase surveillance is required to determine changes in H5 clade viruses from wild birds congregating in Northern Siberia and the border of Russia and Mongolia to serve as an early warning indicator for subsequent outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Central and Western Europe.

*Beerens, N. et al Multiple Reassorted Viruses as Cause of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (H5N8) Virus Epidemic, the Netherlands, 2016. Emerging Infectious Diseases 23: 1966-1973 (2017)

(SMS 019-18 January 2nd 2018)