Phylogenetic variations of highly pathogenic H5N6 avian influenza viruses isolated from wild birds in the Izumi plain, Japan, during the 2016-17 winter season.
During the 2016-2017 winter season, we isolated 33 highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIVs) of H5N6 subtype and three low pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIVs) from debilitated or dead wild birds, duck faeces, and environmental water samples collected in the Izumi plain, an overwintering site for migratory birds in Japan. Genetic analyses of the H5N6 HPAIV isolates revealed previously unreported phylogenetic variations in the PB2, PB1, PA, and NS gene segments and allowed us to propose two novel genotypes for the contemporary H5N6 HPAIVs. In addition, analysis of the four gene segments identified close phylogenetic relationships between our three LPAIV isolates and the contemporary H5N6 HPAIV isolates. Our results implied the co-circulation and co-evolution of HPAIVs and LPAIVs within the same wild bird populations, thereby highlighting the importance of avian influenza surveillance targeting not only for HPAIVs but also for LPAIVs.