Qinghai Lake is a major migrating bird breeding site that has experienced several recent highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) epizootics. From 2006 to 2009 we studied Qinghai's wild birds and pikas for evidence of AIV infections. We sampled 941 healthy wild animals and isolated seventeen H7N2 viruses (eight from pikas and nine from wild birds). The H7N2 viruses were phylogenetically closely related to each other and to viruses isolated in Hong Kong in the 1970s. We determined the pathogenicity of the H7N2 viruses by infecting chickens and mice. Our results suggest that pikas might play an important role in the ecology of AIVs, acting as intermediate hosts in which viruses become more adapted to mammals. Our findings of AI infection in pikas are consistent with previous observations and raise the possibility that pikas might play a previously unrecognized role in the ecology of AIVs peridomestic aquatic environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas