Suspected human-to-animal transmission of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) virus has been reported in several animal species, including pigs, dogs, cats, ferrets, and turkeys. In this study we describe the genetic characterization of pH1N1 viruses isolated from breeder turkeys that was associated with a progressive drop in egg production. Sequence analysis of all eight gene segments from three viruses isolated from this outbreak demonstrated homology with other human and swine pH1N1 isolates. The susceptibility of turkeys to a human pH1N1 isolate was further evaluated experimentally. The 50% turkey infectious dose (TID50) for the human isolate A/Mexico/InDRE/4487/2009 was determined by inoculating groups of 8–10-week-old turkeys with serial 10-fold dilutions of virus by oronasal and cloacal routes. We estimated the TID50 to be between 1 × 105 and 1 × 106 TCID50. The pathogenesis of pH1N1 in oronasally or cloacally inoculated juvenile turkeys was also examined. None of the turkeys exhibited clinical signs, and no significant difference in virus shedding or seroconversion was observed between the two inoculation groups. More than 50% of the turkeys in both oronasal and cloacal groups shed virus beginning at 2 days postinoculation (dpi). All birds that actively shed virus seroconverted by 14 dpi. Virus antigen was demonstrated by immunohistochemistry in the cecal tonsils and bursa of Fabricius in two of the birds that were infected by the cloacal route. Virus transmission to naive contact turkeys was at best doubtful. This report provides additional evidence that pH1N1 can cross the species barrier and cause disease outbreaks in domestic turkeys. However, it appears that the reproductive status of the host as well as environmental factors such as concurrent infections, stress, the presence or absence of litter, and stocking density may also contribute to efficient infection and transmission of this agent.
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