Selection of variant viruses during replication and transmission of H7N1 viruses in chickens and turkeys

The influence of different glycosylation patterns of the haemagglutinin glycoprotein of H7N1 avian influenza viruses on virus replication in vivo was examined. Experimental infection of chickens and turkeys was carried out with H7N1 avian influenza viruses with alternative sites of glycosylation in the haemagglutinin and infected birds were sampled daily by swabbing the buccal and cloacal cavities. cDNAs of the HA1 coding region of the HA gene were prepared from the swabs and cloned into plasmids. Sequencing multiple plasmids made from individual swabs taken over the period of virus shedding showed that viruses with specific patterns of glycosylation near the receptor binding site were stable when birds were infected with a single variant, but when presented with a mixed population of viruses encoding differing patterns of glycosylation a specific variant was rapidly selected in the infected host.

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