Genetic Characterization of Novel H7Nx Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza Viruses from Wild Birds in South Korea during the Winter of 2020-2021

Zoonotic infection with avian influenza viruses (AIVs) of subtype H7, such as H7N9 and H7N4, has raised concerns worldwide. During the winter of 2020-2021, five novel H7 low pathogenic AIVs (LPAIVs) containing different neuraminidase (NA) subtypes, including two H7N3, an H7N8, and two H7N9, were detected in wild bird feces in South Korea. Complete genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed that the novel H7Nx AIVs were reassortants containing two gene segments (hemagglutinin (HA) and matrix) that were related to the zoonotic Jiangsu-Cambodian H7 viruses causing zoonotic infection and six gene segments originating from LPAIVs circulating in migratory birds in Eurasia. A genomic constellation analysis demonstrated that all H7 isolates contained a mix of gene segments from different viruses, indicating that multiple reassortment occurred. The well-known mammalian adaptive substitution (E627K and D701N) in PB2 was not detected in any of these isolates. The detection of multiple reassortant H7Nx AIVs in wild birds highlights the need for intensive surveillance in both wild birds and poultry in Eurasia.