Different Pathogenicity and Transmissibility of Goose-Origin H5N6 Avian Influenza Viruses in Chickens

Highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N6 viruses have been circulating in poultry in Asia since 2013 and producing serious diseases in chickens. Here, we analyzed the genetic properties of 10 H5N6 subtypes AIVs from geese in 2015-2016 in Guangdong province. Phylogenic analysis showed that all HA genes of the 10 viruses belonged to clade, and their genes including HA, PA, PB1, M, NP, and NS all derived from Mix-like 1 (CH, VN, LS). Their PB2 genes come from Mix-like 2 (CH, VN, JP). The NA genes were classified into a Eurasian lineage. Therefore, the 10 viruses likely originate from the same ancestor and were all recombinant viruses between different genotypes. We selected A/Goose/Guangdong/GS144/2015(H5N6) (GS144) and A/Goose/Guangdong/GS148/2016(H5N6) (GS148) viruses to inoculate 5-week-old chickens intranasally with 104 EID50/0.1 mL dose intranasally to assess their pathogenicity and transmissibility. Inoculated chickens showed that the GS144 virus caused systematic infection with a lethality of 100%, but the lethality of GS148 virus was 0%. The two viruses were efficiently transmitted to contact chickens. The lethality of GS144 and GS148 virus in contact with chickens was 87.5% and 0%, respectively, which suggests that the transmissibility of GS144 virus was stronger than GS148 virus in chickens. Thus, different H5N6 viruses from the same waterfowl can show different pathogenicity and transmissibility in chickens. Continued surveillance and characteristic analysis of the H5N6 viruses will help us to keep abreast of evolution and variation in avian influenza viruses in the future.