Live Bird Markets in Nigeria: A Potential Reservoir for H9N2 Avian Influenza Viruses

Since 2006, multiple outbreaks of avian influenza (AI) have been reported in Nigeria involving different subtypes. Surveillance and molecular epidemiology have revealed the vital role of live bird markets (LBMs) in the dissemination of AI virus to commercial poultry farms. To better understand the ecology and epidemiology of AI in Nigeria, we performed whole-genome sequencing of nineteen H9N2 viruses recovered, from apparently healthy poultry species, during active surveillance conducted in nine LBMs across Nigeria in 2019. Analyses of the HA gene segment of these viruses showed that the H9N2 strains belong to the G1 lineage, which has zoonotic potential, and are clustered with contemporary H9N2 identified in Africa between 2016 and 2020. We observed two distinct clusters of H9N2 viruses in Nigeria, suggesting different introductions into the country. In view of the zoonotic potential of H9N2 and the co-circulation of multiple subtypes of AI virus in Nigeria, continuous monitoring of the LBMs across the country and molecular characterization of AIVs identified is advocated to mitigate economic losses and public health threats.