Pathogenesis and genetic characteristics of a novel reassortant low pathogenic avian influenza A(H7N6) virus isolated in Cambodia in 2019.
The first human case of zoonotic A(H7N4) avian influenza virus (AIV) infection was reported in early 2018 in China. Two months after this case, novel A(H7N4) viruses phylogenetically related to the Jiangsu isolate emerged in ducks from live bird markets in Cambodia. During active surveillance in Cambodia, a novel A(H7N6) reassortant of the zoonotic low pathogenic AIV (LPAIV) A(H7N4) was detected in domestic ducks at a slaughterhouse. Complete genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis showed that the novel A(H7N6) AIV is a reassortant, in which four gene segments originated from Cambodia A(H7N4) viruses and four gene segments originated from LPAIVs in Eurasia. Animal infection experiments revealed that chickens transmitted the A(H7N6) virus via low-level direct contacts, but ducks did not. Although avian-origin A(H7Nx) LPAIVs do not contain the critical mammalian-adaptive substitution (E627K) in PB2, the lethality and morbidity of the A(H7N6) virus in BALB/c mice were similar to those of A(H7N9) viruses, suggesting potential for interspecies transmission. Our study reports the emergence of a new reassortant of zoonotic A(H7N4) AIVs with novel viral characteristics and emphasizes the need for ongoing surveillance of avian-origin A(H7Nx) viruses.