Beginning in April 2009, a novel H1N1 influenza virus caused acute respiratory disease in humans, first in Mexico and then around the world. The resulting pandemic influenza A H1N1 2009 (pH1N1) virus was isolated in swine in Canada in June 2009 and later in breeder turkeys in Chile, Canada, and the United States. The pH1N1 virus consists of gene segments of avian, human, and swine influenza origin and has the potential for infection in poultry following exposure to infected humans or swine. We examined the clinical events following the initial outbreak of pH1N1 in turkeys and determined the relatedness of the hemagglutinin (HA) gene segments from the pH1N1 to two H1N1 avian influenza (AI) isolates used in commercial turkey inactivated vaccines. Overall, infection of turkey breeder hens with pH1N1 resulted in ≥50% reduction of egg production over 3–4 weeks. Genetic analysis indicated one H1N1 AI vaccine isolate (A/turkey/North Carolina/17026/1988) contained approximately 92% nucleotide sequence similarity to the pH1N1 virus (A/Mexico/4109/2009); whereas, a more recent AI vaccine isolate (A/swine/North Carolina/00573/2005) contained 75.9% similarity. Comparison of amino acids found at antigenic sites of the HA protein indicated conserved epitopes at the Sa site; however, major differences were found at the Ca2 site between pH1N1 and A/turkey/North Carolina/127026/1988. Hemagglutinin-inhibition (HI) tests were conducted with sera produced in vaccinated turkeys in North Carolina to determine if protection would be conferred using U.S. AI vaccine isolates. HI results indicate positive reactivity (HI titer ≥ 5 log2) against the vaccine viruses over the course of study. However, limited cross-reactivity to the 2009 pH1N1 virus was observed, with positive titers in a limited number of birds (6 out of 20) beginning only after a third vaccination. Taken together, these results demonstrate that turkeys treated with these vaccines would likely not be protected against pH1N1 and current vaccines used in breeder turkeys in the United States against circulating H1N1 viruses should be updated to ensure adequate protection against field exposure.
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Vol. 55 • No. 4