Nguyen ATV, Hoang VT, Sung HW, Yeo SJ, Park H. Genetic Characterization and Pathogenesis of Three Novel Reassortant H5N2 Viruses in South Korea, 2018. Viruses. 2021 Oct 30;13(11):2192
The outbreaks of H5N2 avian influenza viruses have occasionally caused the death of thousands of birds in poultry farms. Surveillance during the 2018 winter season in South Korea revealed three H5N2 isolates in feces samples collected from wild birds (KNU18-28: A/Wild duck/South Korea/KNU18-28/2018, KNU18-86: A/Bean Goose/South Korea/KNU18-86/2018, and KNU18-93: A/Wild duck/South Korea/KNU18-93/2018). Phylogenetic tree analysis revealed that these viruses arose from reassortment events among various virus subtypes circulating in South Korea and other countries in the East Asia-Australasian Flyway. The NS gene of the KNU18-28 and KNU18-86 isolates was closely related to that of China´s H10N3 strain, whereas the KNU18-93 strain originated from the H12N2 strain in Japan, showing two different reassortment events and different from a low pathogenic H5N3 (KNU18-91) virus which was isolated at the same day and same place with KNU18-86 and KNU18-93. These H5N2 isolates were characterized as low pathogenic avian influenza viruses. However, many amino acid changes in eight gene segments were identified to enhance polymerase activity and increase adaptation and virulence in mice and mammals. Experiments reveal that viral replication in MDCK cells was quite high after 12 hpi, showing the ability to replicate in mouse lungs. The hematoxylin and eosin-stained (H&E) lung sections indicated different degrees of pathogenicity of the three H5N2 isolates in mice compared with that of the control H1N1 strain. The continuing circulation of these H5N2 viruses may represent a potential threat to mammals and humans. Our findings highlight the need for intensive surveillance of avian influenza virus circulation in South Korea to prevent the risks posed by these reassortment viruses to animal and public health.
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