Influenza A virus surveillance, infection and antibody persistence in snow geese (Anser caerulescens).
Some snow geese (Anser caerulescens) migrate between Eurasia and North America and exhibit high seroprevalence for influenza A viruses (IAVs). Hence, these birds might be expected to play a role in intercontinental dispersal of IAVs. Our objective in this manuscript was to characterize basic incidence and infection characteristics for snow geese to assess whether these birds are likely to significantly contribute to circulation of IAVs. Thus, we (1) estimated snow goose infection prevalence by summarizing > 5,000 snow goose surveillance records, (2) experimentally infected snow geese with a low pathogenic IAV (H4N6) to assess susceptibility and infection dynamics and (3) characterized long-term antibody kinetics. Infection prevalence based on surveillance data for snow geese was 7.88%, higher than the infection rates found in other common North American goose species. In the experimental infection study, only 4 of 7 snow geese shed viral RNA. Shedding in infected birds peaked at moderate levels (mean peak 102.62 EID50 equivalents/mL) and was exclusively associated with the oral cavity. Serological testing across a year post-exposure showed all inoculated birds seroconverted regardless of detectable shedding. Antibody levels peaked at 10 days post-exposure and then waned to undetectable levels by 6 months. In sum, while broad-scale surveillance results showed comparatively high infection prevalence, the experimental infection study showed only moderate susceptibility and shedding. Consequently, additional work is needed to assess whether snow geese might exhibit higher levels of susceptibility and shedding rates when exposed to other IAV strains.