Repeated cases of low pathogenic influenza A/H9N2 virus (IAV/H9N2) have been reported in commercial chickens since its emergence in 1998 in Pakistan. However, recently increased mortality and severe respiratory complications under field conditions have been noticed, suggesting concomitant influenza infections with respiratory viral and/or bacterial pathogens. Therefore, the present study aimed to investigate the presence of IAV/H9N2 coinfecting with multiple viral and bacterial pathogens in broiler chicken flocks. We surveyed 60 broiler flocks with respiratory signs from March through July 2019 in Punjab, Pakistan. Suspected flocks were screened for the presence of IAV using a lateral-flow device. Tracheal, cloacal, and bone marrow samples were collected and further tested for seven viral agents (chicken anemia; Newcastle disease; infectious bronchitis; infectious laryngeotracheitis [ILT]; and IAV subtypes H9, H7, and H5) and three bacterial agents (Mycoplasma gallisepticum; Mycoplasma synovae; Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale [ORT]) using PCR assays. Upon initial screening for IAV, 35/60 (58.3%) flocks tested positive. The coinfection of IAV/H9N2 with other pathogens was detected in 25 (71.4%) flocks and only IAV/H9N2 was detected in 10 (28.6%) flocks out of total positive IAV flocks (n = 35). IAV subtypes H5 and H7, ILT, and ORT were not detected throughout the study period. The detection rate of double, triple, and quadruple combinations of coinfections with IAV/H9N2 were 37% (13 flocks), 26% (9 flocks), 9% (3 flocks), respectively. Higher average mortality (28.5%) was found in broiler chicken flocks coinfected with viral and/or bacterial pathogens than in flocks where only H9 low pathogenic IAV/H9N2 was detected (20.8%). In conclusion, higher circulation of IAV/H9N2 with other viral and bacterial pathogens may contribute to higher production and economic losses at the farm level.
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Vol. 66 • No. 2