Wild bird surveillance for avian influenza virus (AIV) was conducted from 2001 to 2012 in the Azov - Black Sea region of the Ukraine, considered part of the transcontinental wild bird migration routes from northern Asia and Europe to the Mediterranean, Africa, and southwest Asia. A total of 6281 samples were collected from wild birds representing 27 families and eight orders for virus isolation. From these samples, 69 AIVs belonging to 15 of the 16 known hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes and seven of nine known neuraminidase (NA) subtypes were isolated. No H14, N5, or N9 subtypes were identified. In total, nine H6, eight H1, nine H5, seven H7, six H11, six H4, five H3, five H10, four H8, three H2, three H9, one H12, one H13, one H15, and one H16 HA subtypes were isolated. As for the NA subtypes, twelve N2, nine N6, eight N8, seven N7, six N3, four N4, and one undetermined were isolated. There were 27 HA and NA antigen combinations. All isolates were low pathogenic AIV except for eight highly pathogenic (HP) AIVs that were isolated during the H5N1 HPAI outbreaks of 2006–08. Sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of the HA genes revealed epidemiological connections between the Azov-Black Sea regions and Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and Southeast Asia. H1, H2, H3, H7, H8, H6, H9, and H13 AIV subtypes were closely related to European, Russian, Mongolian, and Georgian AIV isolates. H10, H11, and H12 AIV subtypes were epidemiologically linked to viruses from Europe and Southeast Asia. Serology conducted on serum and egg yolk samples also demonstrated previous exposure of many wild bird species to different AIVs. Our results demonstrate the great genetic diversity of AIVs in wild birds in the Azov-Black Sea region as well as the importance of this region for monitoring and studying the ecology of influenza viruses. This information furthers our understanding of the ecology of avian influenza viruses in wild bird species.
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Vol. 60 • No. 1s