Low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses in wild birds are important as they can constitute the basis for the development of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses or form part of human-adapted strains with pandemic potential. However, the pathogenesis of LPAI viruses is not well characterized in dabbling ducks, one of the natural reservoirs of LPAI viruses. Between 21 September 2009 and 21 December 2009, we used real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (q-PCR), histopathology, and immunohistochemistry (IHC) to study Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) infected with an influenza A/H1N1 virus isolated from a wild Mallard in Sweden. The ducks were either inoculated intraesophageally (“artificial infection”) or infected by virus shed by other ducks in the experiment (“contact infection”). The ducks were subjected to three low concentrations (80 ng/L, 1 μg/L, and 80 μg/L) of the active metabolite of oseltamivir (Tamiflu®), oseltamivir carboxylate (OC), which resulted in the development of the viral resistance mutation H274Y at 1 and 80 μg/L. The LPAI virus infection was localized to the intestinal tract and cloacal bursa except in one Mallard. The exception was a duck euthanized 1 day postinoculation, whose infection was located solely in the lung, possibly due to intratracheal deposition of virus. The intestinal infection was characterized by occasional degenerating cells in the lamina propria and presence of viral antigen as detected by IHC, as well as positive q-PCR performed on samples from feces and intestinal contents. Histopathologic changes, IHC positivity, and viral shedding all indicated that the infection peaked early, around 2 days postinfection. Furthermore, more viral antigen and viral RNA were detected with IHC and q-PCR in the proximal parts early in the infection. There was no obvious difference in the course of the infection in artificial versus contact infection, when the level of OC was increased from 80 ng/L to 1 μg/L (based on IHC and q-PCR), when the level of OC was increased to 80 μg/L, or when the resistance mutation H274Y developed (based on q-PCR).
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Vol. 49 • No. 1