Di Pillo F, Baumberger C, Salazar C, Galdames P, R. Novel Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza H6N1 in Backyard Chicken in Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Chilean Polynesia. Viruses. 2022 Mar 30;14(4):718
Little is known about the prevalence of avian influenza viruses (AIV) in wildlife and domestic animals in Polynesia. Here, we present the results of active AIV surveillance performed during two sampling seasons in 2019 on Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Tracheal and cloacal swabs as well as sera samples were obtained from domestic backyard poultry, while fresh faeces were collected from wild birds. In addition to detecting antibodies against AIV in 46% of the domestic chickens in backyard production systems tested, we isolated a novel low pathogenic H6N1 virus from a chicken. Phylogenetic analysis of all genetic segments revealed that the virus was closely related to AIV´s circulating in South America. Our analysis showed different geographical origins of the genetic segments, with the PA, HA, NA, NP, and MP gene segments coming from central Chile and the PB2, PB1, and NS being closely related to viruses isolated in Argentina. While the route of introduction can only be speculated, our analysis shows the persistence and independent evolution of this strain in the island since its putative introduction between 2015 and 2016. The results of this research are the first evidence of AIV circulation in domestic birds on a Polynesian island and increase our understanding of AIV ecology in region, warranting further surveillance on Rapa Nui and beyond.
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