2010 - 2013

Determining the molecular basis of adaptation of influenza viruses from their natural reservoir to domestic poultry

Principal Investigator: Yohannes Berhane, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
Status: Completed


To better understand how avian influenza virus has developed the ability to infect domestic poultry.


The natural reservoir for avian influenza virus (AIV) includes species of waterfowl, gulls and shore birds in which all existing hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) subtype combinations exist without causing disease. Some H5 and H7 subtype viruses can cross the species barrier and infect domestic poultry, sometimes with devastating results. The molecular basis for this adaptation is not well understood. Dr. Berhane and his team are studying the genetic structure of a collection of AIVs retrieved from wild birds and commercial poultry. The scientists are using modern molecular biology techniques to, in essence, tear apart and re-assemble the viral genomes in different configurations to mimic mutations observed in the field. Observing the effects of these mutations in terms of pathogenicity will help explain how AIV can adapt to domestic poultry.


Many so-called “reassortment” viruses have been developed and are being characterized with respect to a number of biological properties including the ability to induce immune responses and cause disease in chickens.


This research is part of an overall program to better understand the biology of avian influenza with the long-term goal of developing rational control strategies in domestic poultry.


$147,400 ($7,000 CFIA in-kind, $140,400 CPRC)


Berhane,Y. H. Kehler, K. Handel T. Hisanaga, Wanhong Xu, D. Ojkic and J. Pasick (2012). Molecular and Antigenic Characterization of Reassortant H3N2 Viruses from Turkeys with a Unique Constellation of Pandemic H1N1 Internal Genes. PLoS ONE, 2012, 7, 3.


*This research was part of the 2010-2013 Poultry Science Cluster which was supported by AAFC as part of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

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