Barberis A, Boudaoud A, Gorrill A, et al. Full-length genome sequences of the first H9N2 avian influenza viruses isolated in the Northeast of Algeria. Virol J. 2020;17(1):108
Methods: Ten AIV H9N2 strains, collected in broiler flocks, were amplified in 9-day-old embryonated specific pathogen free (SPF) chicken eggs. Their full-length genomes were successfully sequenced and phylogenetic and molecular characterizations were conducted.
Results: Phylogenetic analysis showed that the isolates were monophyletic, grouped within the G-1 lineage and were very close to Moroccan and Algerian strains identified in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The low pathogenicity of the strains was confirmed by the sequence motif (335RSSR/GLF341) at the hemagglutinin (HA) cleavage site. An exclusive substitution (T197A) that had not been previously reported for H9N2 viruses; but, conserved in some pandemic H1N1 viruses, was observed. When compared to the G1-like H9N2 prototype, the studied strains showed one less glycosylation site in HA, but 2-3 additional ones in the stalk of the neuraminidase (NA). The HA protein harbored the substitution 234 L, suggesting binding preference to human-like receptors. The NA protein harbored S372A and R403W substitutions, previously detected in H9N2 from Asia and the Middle East, and especially in H2N2 and H3N2 strains that caused human pandemics. Different molecular markers associated with virulence and mammalian infections have been detected in the viral internal proteins. The matrix M2 protein possessed the S31N substitution associated with drug resistance. The non-structural 1 (NS1) protein showed the "GSEV" PDZ ligand (PL) C-terminal motif and no 80-84 deletion.
Conclusion: Characterized Algerian AIV isolates showed mutations that suggest increased zoonotic potential. Additional studies in animal models are required to investigate the pathogenicity of these H9N2 AIV strains. Monitoring their evolution in both migratory and domestic birds is crucial to prevent transmission to humans. Implementation of adequate biosecurity measures that limit the introduction and the propagation of AIV H9N2 in Algerian poultry farm is crucial.
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