Waterfowl are the natural reservoirs of avian influenza viruses (AIVs), from which the virus can spread to other species including humans, poultry, and swine. For the surveillance of AIV in their natural reservoir, most laboratories initially screen the samples using real-time reverse-transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction because of its high speed and sensitivity. Thereafter, virus isolation is used to isolate viruses from positive samples. Although many studies point to the need of testing both cloacal and oropharyngeal (OP) samples in AIV surveillance programs, most laboratories focus only on cloacal samples. This study was undertaken to determine the utility of OP samples as target samples in AIV surveillance programs under a strict cold chain of samples from the field to the laboratory. A total of 16 AIV (15.1%) were isolated from the 106 OP samples examined. Upon subtyping, four hemagglutinin subtypes (H1, H3, H4, and H6) and three neuraminidase subtypes (N1, N2, and N8) were detected in nine different combinations. Mixed infection with two different subtypes was found in four samples. No AIVs were isolated from the corresponding cloacal samples. These results highlight the fact that testing of properly frozen OP samples could add value to the understanding of the epidemiology and ecology of AIV in waterfowl populations.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3