Chickens were intranasally inoculated with Chilean H7N3 avian influenza (AI) viruses of low pathogenicity (LP) (H7N3/LP), high pathogenicity (HP) (H7N3/HP), and a laboratory derivative (02-AI-15-#9) (H7N3/14D) from the LPAI virus to determine pathobiologic effects. All chickens inoculated with H7N3/HP AI virus became infected and abruptly died 2 or 3 days postinoculation, but a few showed moderate depression before death. The H7N3/HP AI virus produced focal hemorrhages of the comb, petechial hemorrhage at the esophageal–proventricular junction and proventricular mucosa, edema and congestion of the lung, petechiation of the spleen, and generalized decrease in body fat. Histologically, severe necrosis, hemorrhage, and inflammation were primarily identified in lungs and the lymphoid tissues. All tissues sampled from the H7N3/HP AI group were positive for the AI viral antigen, predominantly in endothelium of blood vessels throughout most tissues and less frequently in histiocytes and cellular debris of lymphoid tissues. Even less consistently, cardiac myocytes, hepatocytes, Kupffer cells, glandular epithelial cells, microglial cells, and neurons became infected. These studies suggest the Chilean H7N3/LP AI virus was poorly infectious for chickens and may have been recently introduced from a nongalliform host. By contrast, the H7N3/HP AI virus was highly infectious and lethal for chickens. The H7N3/HP AI virus had a strong tropism for the cardiovascular system, principally vascular endothelium, which is similar to the viral tropism demonstrated previously with other H5 and H7 HPAI viruses. Interestingly, the H7N3/LP AI virus on intravenous inoculation replicated in cardiac myocytes, a feature of HPAI and not LPAI viruses, which further supports the theory that the H7N3/LP AI virus was in transition from LP to HP.
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Vol. 48 • No. 1