Ecology and Molecular Epidemiology of Avian and Swine Influenza A viruses in Guatemala

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The greatest diversity of Influenza A viruses (IAV) is found in waterfowl species from numerous geographic locations. In addition, multiple IAV are, and continue to be, perpetuated in swine populations around the globe. Due to the zoonotic potential of IAV and to respond more effectively to potential agricultural and public health threats, there is a need to increase surveillance in avian and swine hosts in understudied geographical regions. In Latin America, avian influenza surveillance has been scarce, localized only to places where outbreaks in poultry have occurred. Similarly, active swine influenza surveillance was implemented only after the emergence of the 2009 pandemic strain (pH1N1). The project presented here was aimed at investigating the circulation of IAV in wild birds and pigs in Guatemala. Over 2200 birds were sampled during six consecutive migration seasons from 2007 to 2013 in different locations. Virus prevalence detected by rRT-PCR in positive species ranged from 5.2% to 38%. Preliminary data indicates temporal variation of IAV prevalence in migratory waterfowl. Eighty-three viruses were recovered with 22 different subtype combinations. Through phylogenetic inferences and the analysis of virus genotypes and gene constellations of 60 fully sequenced genomes, we provide a detailed description of the genetic structure of avian IAV circulating in Guatemala. Our results suggest that the virus diversity in this location is sourced from multiple migration flyways from North America. Overlap of these flyways, in a natural geographical bottleneck such as the Neotropics, may contribute to the patterns of extensive genetic reassortment observed at a continental scale.

In addition, the results from two nationwide multistage random surveys in pigs demonstrated circulation of swine influenza in commercial and peridomestic herds in Guatemala. Herd prevalence of IAV was 36.3% in 2010 and 34.6% in 2011. Viruses of the H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes and antibodies against viruses of distinct genetic lineages of these subtypes were detected. Our results indicate that human-animal contact likely plays a role in the IAV epidemiology in local swine populations. The findings from this research constitute the most abundant data on the ecology and epidemiology of animal influenza currently available for Central America.