Role of terrestrial wild birds in ecology of influenza A virus (H5N1)

Adrianus C.M. Boon, Matthew R. Sandbulte, Patrick Seiler, Richard J. Webby, Thaweesak Songserm, Yi Guan, Robert G. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


House sparrows, European starlings, and Carneux pigeons were inoculated with 4 influenza A (H5N1) viruses isolated from different avian species. We monitored viral replication, death after infection, and transmission to uninfected contact birds of the same species. Sparrows were susceptible to severe infection; 66%-100% of birds died within 4-7 days. High levels of virus were detected from oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs and in organs of deceased sparrows. Inoculation of starlings caused no deaths, despite high levels of virus shedding evident in oropharyngeal swabs. Least susceptible were pigeons, which had no deaths and very low levels of virus in oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs. Transmission to contact birds did not occur frequently: only A/common magpie/Hong Kong/645/2006 virus was shown to transmit to 1 starling. In summary, recent influenza (H5N1) viruses are pathogenic for small terrestrial bird species but the rate of intraspecies transmission in these hosts is very low.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1720-1724
Number of pages5
JournalEmerging Infectious Diseases
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007


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