In order to investigate viral adaptation mechanisms to poultry, we performed serial in vivo passages of a wild bird low pathogenicity avian influenza isolate of the H7N3 subtype (A/mallard/Italy/33/01) in three different domestic species (chicken, turkey, and Japanese quail). The virus under study was administered via natural routes at the dose of 106 egg infective dose50/0.1 ml to chickens, turkeys, and quails in order to investigate the clinical susceptibility and the shedding levels after infection. Multiple in vivo passages of the virus were performed by serially infecting groups of five naïve birds of each species, with samples collected from a previously infected group. Quails and turkeys were susceptible to infection for 10 serial passages, whereas chickens were susceptible to two cycles of infection only. Infection of chicken with the quail- and turkey-adapted viruses showed an increased pathogenicity and/or shedding, causing more severe clinical signs and/or higher levels of viral excretion compared to the original strain. The data obtained herein suggest that infection of selected avian species may facilitate the adaptation of avian influenza viruses originating from the wild bird reservoir to chicken. This is the first time turkey has been shown to act as a species in which a virus from the wild reservoir can increase its replication activity in other domestic species.
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Vol. 54 • No. s1