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Antigenic characterization of H3 subtypes of avian influenza A viruses from North America

August 22, 2016

Besides humans, H3 subtypes of influenza A viruses (IAVs) can infect various animal hosts, including avian, swine, equine, canine, and sea mammal species. These H3 viruses are both antigenically and genetically diverse. Here, we characterized the antigenic diversity of contemporary H3 avian IAVs recovered from migratory birds in North America. Hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assays were performed on 37 H3 isolates of avian IAVs recovered from 2007 to 2011 using generated reference chicken sera. These isolates were recovered from samples taken in the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific waterfowl migration flyways. Antisera to all the tested H3 isolates cross-reacted with each other and, to a lesser extent, with those to H3 canine and H3 equine IAVs. Antigenic cartography showed that the largest antigenic distance among the 37 avian IAVs is about four units, and each unit corresponds to a 2 log 2 difference in the HI titer. However, none of the tested H3 IAVs cross-reacted with ferret sera derived from contemporary swine and human IAVs. Our results showed that the H3 avian IAVs we tested lacked significant antigenic diversity, and these viruses were antigenically different from those circulating in swine and human populations. This suggests that H3 avian IAVs in North American waterfowl are antigenically relatively stable.