The ability of the H5N1 bird flu virus to jump species has been well documented over the past few years. While its natural host is aquatic waterfowl, we’ve seen H5N1 infections in cats (including tigers), dogs, martens, civets, and of course humans.
Researchers have successfully infected cattle with the H5N1 virus, along with ferrets and mice for testing.
Viruses generally adapt to a fairly narrow range of species. Horse viruses generally attack equines, and not say, cats and dogs. Cat viruses tend to attack felines, and not birds. Many bird viruses only infect avian species.
The species that a virus will infect is known as its host range. And while usually limited, it isn't always the case. Rabies is a good example of a virus that can infect a wide host of species.
The H5N1 virus continues to surprise in this regard, showing up in an increasingly wider range of non-avian hosts.
Today, in the Journal of Biomedical Science, we have the first report that I’m aware of showing the isolation of the H5N1 virus in Donkeys.
A hat tip to Treyfish on FluTrackers for posting an article that led me to this study.
Ahmed S Abdel-Moneim , Ahmad E Abdel-Ghany and Salama AS Shany
Journal of Biomedical Science 2010, 17:25doi:10.1186/1423-0127-17-25
14 April 2010
The highly pathogenic H5N1 is a major avian pathogen that crosses species barriers and seriously affects humans as well as some mammals. It mutates in an intensified manner and is considered a potential candidate for the possible next pandemic with all the catastrophic consequences.
Nasal swabs were collected from donkeys suffered from respiratory distress. The virus was isolated from the pooled nasal swabs in specific pathogen free embryonated chicken eggs (SPF-ECE). Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and sequencing of both haemagglutingin and neuraminidase were performed. H5 seroconversion was screened using haemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay on 105 donkey serum samples.
We demonstrated that H5N1 jumped from poultry to another mammalian host; donkeys. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the virus clustered within the lineage of H5N1 from Egypt, closely related to 2009 isolates. It harboured few genetic changes compared to the closely related viruses from avian and humans. The neuraminidase lacks oseltamivir resistant mutations. Interestingly, HI screening for antibodies to H5 haemagglutinins in donkeys revealed high exposure rate.
These findings extend the host range of the H5N1 influenza virus, possess implications for influenza virus epidemiology and highlight the need for the systematic surveillance of H5N1 in animals in the vicinity of backyard poultry units especially in endemic areas.
There is a link to a provisional PDF file HERE, but as of this writing, the link returns an error. Hopefully the entire report will be online soon.