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PLOS ONE  2011 

Host Cytokine Responses of Pigeons Infected with Highly Pathogenic Thai Avian Influenza Viruses of Subtype H5N1 Isolated from Wild Birds

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023103

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) of the H5N1 subtype has been reported to infect pigeons asymptomatically or induce mild symptoms. However, host immune responses of pigeons inoculated with HPAIVs have not been well documented. To assess host responses of pigeons against HPAIV infection, we compared lethality, viral distribution and mRNA expression of immune related genes of pigeons infected with two HPAIVs (A/Pigeon/Thailand/VSMU-7-NPT/2004; Pigeon04 and A/Tree sparrow/Ratchaburi/VSMU-16-RBR/2005; T.sparrow05) isolated from wild birds in Thailand. The survival experiment showed that 25% of pigeons died within 2 weeks after the inoculation of two HPAIVs or medium only, suggesting that these viruses did not cause lethal infection in pigeons. Pigeon04 replicated in the lungs more efficiently than T.sparrow05 and spread to multiple extrapulmonary organs such as the brain, spleen, liver, kidney and rectum on days 2, 5 and 9 post infection. No severe lesion was observed in the lungs infected with Pigeon04 as well as T.sparrow05 throughout the collection periods. Encephalitis was occasionally observed in Pigeon04- or T.sparrow05-infected brain, the severity, however was mostly mild. To analyze the expression of immune-related genes in the infected pigeons, we established a quantitative real-time PCR analysis for 14 genes of pigeons. On day 2 post infection, Pigeon04 induced mRNA expression of Mx1, PKR and OAS to a greater extent than T.sparrow05 in the lungs, however their expressions were not up-regulated concomitantly on day 5 post infection when the peak viral replication was observed. Expressions of TLR3, IFNα, IL6, IL8 and CCL5 in the lungs following infection with the two HPAIVs were low. In sum, Pigeon04 exhibited efficient replication in the lungs compared to T.sparrow05, but did not induce excessive host cytokine expressions. Our study has provided the first insight into host immune responses of pigeons against HPAIV infection.


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