Adaptation of Two Wild Bird-Origin H3N8 Avian Influenza Viruses to Mammalian Hosts

Wild birds play an important role in the emergence, evolution, and spread of zoonotic avian influenza viruses (AIVs). However, there are few studies on the cross-species transmission of the H3N8 AIV originating from wild birds. In this study, we investigated the transmissibility and pathogenicity of two H3N8 low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIVs) isolated from wild birds, GZA1 and XJ47, to mammals. The HA genes of both strains belonged to Eurasian isolates, while the other genes were derived from a variety of other subtypes of AIVs. Both strains can infect specific-pathogen-free (SPF) chickens, BALB/c mice, and guinea pigs. The XJ47 strain spread horizontally in SPF chickens and guinea pigs. The GZA1 strain did not spread horizontally but caused higher weight loss and mild lung inflammation in mice. P12-GZA1- and P12-XJ47-adapted strains obtained after 12 passages in the lung of mice showed enhanced pathogenicity in mice, which led to obvious clinical symptoms, lung inflammation, and 100% death. Both adapted strains have the reported mutation T97I in the PA, and the reported mutation D701N in PB2 has been found in the P12-GZA1-adapted strain. This study provides an important scientific basis for the continuous monitoring of wild AIVs and the mechanism underlying AIV cross-species transmission.