This article reports the genetic and pathogenic characteristics of 34 isolates of H6N1 avian influenza viruses isolated in Taiwan between 1972 and 2005. Genetic analyses showed that a unique lineage of H6N1 viruses has been established in domestic chickens in Taiwan since 1997, and this lineage of viruses differs from the H6N1 viruses circulating in Hong Kong and Southeastern China. Pathogenicity tests showed that all Taiwanese H6N1 viruses were of low pathogenicity but might lead to economic loss when associated with other diseases. Hemagglutination inhibition tests showed that antigenic drift has occurred in Taiwanese H6N1 viruses, and sequence comparison has identified a total of five possible antigenic sites on the hemagglutinin molecule of the H6N1 viruses. Some Taiwanese H6N1 viruses could replicate in mice without preadaptation, indicating that these viruses have the potential to cause cross-species infection into mammals.
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Vol. 50 • No. 4