Short Name:

IPY NL - Avian influenza in arctic breeding waterfowl

This project investigates the interaction between Arctic-breeding migratory waterfowl and avian influenza viruses. We have used RT-PCR targeting the matrix gene of the influenza virus to detect current infection from cloacal and/or tracheal samples from wild waterfowl, as well as blocking ELISAs on the sera of these waterfowl to detect antibodies to the nucleoprotein gene segment of the influenza virus. These methods were used to compile infection dynamics and host species patterns over 11 years in the Netherlands (1998-2009), as well as throughout a full annual cycle along the migratory flyway of Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus), from their wintering grounds in Belgium to their breeding grounds on the Arctic Island of Svalbard. The same techniques were used to examine infection during the over-wintering of Bewick?s swans (Cygnus columbianus bewikii) in the Netherlands. This allowed us to assess which individuals, from which habitats (determined by carbon stable isotope analysis) become infected, as well as the consequences of natural infection in terms of foraging behavior during winter (through detailed visual observations) and timing and rate of spring migration (through volunteer neck collar resightings and GPS loggers fitted to individual birds). Under license from the Animal experimental committee (protocol KNAW CL05.08) and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (license number FF/75A/2008/060 & 060a), we extended our assessment of the consequences of infection in free-living Bewick's swans by conducting experimental infections with a wild-type low-pathogenic avian influenza virus (H4N6 - A/mallard/Netherlands/1/99), and collecting the same monitoring information as for naturally infected (and control) birds.

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