Water-borne transmission has been suggested as an important transmission mechanism for Influenza A (IA) viruses in wild duck populations; however, relatively few studies have attempted to detect IA viruses from aquatic habitats. Water-isolated viruses have rarely been genetically characterized and evaluation for persistence in water and infectivity in natural hosts has never been documented. In this study, we focused on two IA viruses (H3N8 and H4N6 subtypes) isolated from surface lake water in Minnesota, USA. We investigated the relative prevalence of the two virus subtypes in wild duck populations at the sampling site and their genetic relatedness to IA viruses isolated in wild waterbirds in North America. Viral persistence under different laboratory conditions (temperature and pH) and replication in experimentally infected Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were also characterized. Both viruses were the most prevalent subtype one year following their isolation in lake water. The viruses persisted in water for an extended time period at constant temperature (several weeks) but infectivity rapidly reduced under multiple freeze-thaw cycles. Furthermore, the two isolates efficiently replicated in Mallards. The complete genome characterization supported that these isolates originated from genetic reassortments with other IA viruses circulating in wild duck populations during the year of sampling. Based on phylogenetic analyses, we couldn't identify genetically similar viruses in duck populations in the years following their isolation from lake water. Our study supports the role for water-borne transmission for IA viruses but also highlights that additional field and experimental studies are required to support inter-annual persistence in aquatic habitats.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)