Experimental Infection and In-Contact Transmission of H9N2 Avian Influenza Virus in Crows

This study aimed to investigate the potential of H9N2 avian influenza virus to cause disease and intra-species transmission in house crows (Corvus splendens). A group of six crows were intranasally inoculated with 106.0 EID50 of H9N2 virus (A/chicken/India/07OR17/2021), and 24 h post-inoculation six na?ve crows were co-housed with infected crows. Crows were observed for 14 days for any overt signs of illness. Oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs were collected up to 14 days to assess virus excretion. No apparent clinical signs were observed in either infected or in-contact crows. Virus excretion was observed only in infected birds up to 9 days post-infection (dpi) through both oropharyngeal and cloacal routes. All six infected crows seroconverted to H9N2 virus at 14 dpi, whereas all in-contact crows remained negative to H9N2 virus antibodies. No virus could be isolated from tissues viz., lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, small intestine and large intestine. Although crows became infected with the H9N2 virus, transmission of the virus was inefficient to the in-contact group. However, virus excretion through oral and cloacal swabs from infected crows suggests a potential threat for inter-species transmission, including humans. Crows, being a common synanthrope species, might have some role in influenza virus transmission to poultry and humans, which needs to be explored further.