The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 disease has led to significant loss of poultry and wild life and case fatality rates in humans of 60%. Wild birds are natural hosts for all avian influenza virus subtypes and over120 bird species have been reported with evidence of H5N1 infection. Influenza A viruses possess a segmented RNA genome and are characterized by frequently occurring genetic reassortment events, which play a very important role in virus evolution and the spread of novel gene constellations in immunologically naïve human and animal populations. Phylogenetic analysis of whole genome or sub-genomic sequences is a standard means for delineating genetic variation, novel reassortment events, and surveillance to trace the global transmission pathways. In this paper, special emphasis is given to the transmission and circulation of H5N1 among wild life populations, and to the reassortment events that are associated with inter-host transmission of the H5N1 viruses when they infect different hosts, such as birds, pigs and humans. In addition, we review the inter-subtype reassortment of the viral segments encoding inner proteins between the H5N1 viruses and viruses of other subtypes, such as H9N2 and H6N1. Finally, we highlight the usefulness of genomic sequences in molecular epidemiological analysis of HPAI H5N1 and the technical limitations in existing analytical methods that hinder them from playing a greater role in virological research.
Keywords: Avian Influenza H5N1, reassortment, transmission, genomic, wild bird, phylogeny, Evolution, PCOORD, epidemiology, mutations
Rights & PermissionsPrintExport