Novel Avian Influenza Virus Detected in Adélie Penguins from Antarctica

Novel Avian Influenza Virus Detected in Adélie Penguins from Antarctica

A new and distinct type of live avian influenza virus has been detected in a group of Adélie penguins from Antarctica.

For the study, researchers took samples from the windpipes and posterior openings of 301 Adélie penguins and blood samples from 270 penguins. The flu was found in eight samples, six from adult penguins and two from chicks.

Further assessment unveiled that all viruses were H11N2 influenza viruses and were quite similar to each other. But it was only after genome sequencing of four of the collected viruses were compared with all of the available animals and human influenza viruses that it got unveiled that it was one of a kind virus detected across the globe.

"When we drew phylogenetic trees to show the evolutionary relationships of the virus, all of the genes were highly distinct from contemporary AIVs (avian influenza viruses) circulating in other continents", said Aeron Hurt, a senior research scientist at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, Australia.

Four of the genes segments were related to North American avian lineage viruses from 1960s to 1980s and two genes showed a distant relationship with South American avian influenza viruses from Chile, Brazil and Argentina.

Researchers then estimated that the virus has been evolving for past 49 to 80 years. For now, it is not known that the virus that has been tested at two locations on the Antarctic Peninsula has emerged there only or not.

Experiment was carried out on ferrets as well to know whether the virus passed on the animal or not, but it did not. Hurt said it is also quite unlikely that the virus would infect humans.

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