12) Influenza A Viruses in North American Wild Birds

Anas platyrhynchos, one of many important waterfowl species in the IAV system.

Mentor: Dr. Rebecca Poulson
Abstract: Wild birds serve as the natural reservoir for influenza A viruses (IAV). Though we know a lot about low pathogenicity (LP) IAV in wild bird hosts in North America, our understanding of the influenza landscape was abruptly altered with the introduction of highly pathogenic (HP) H5 viruses via wild birds late in 2021 into Canada and then across the United States. HP IAV has now been detected in over 100 different avian species in the United States alone and is leading to significant mortality events in some taxa. The long term effects of this introduction, and how it will change the wild bird influenza A system are yet to be fully understood, but we can gain glimpses into what the future may hold for certain species by using serological tools aimed at assessing potential exposure to both LP and HP IAV. The REU scholar will learn both virologic and serologic techniques related to IAV in wild birds and it is anticipated that they will help in screening a subset of serum samples for antibodies to IAV, to better understand the role immunity might play in modulating infection and disease.
Is the project computational, empirical, or both? Empirical