Highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIVs) of H5 subtype pose a great threat to the poultry industry and human health. In recent years, H5N6 subtype has rapidly replaced H5N1 as the most predominate HPAIV subtype circulating in domestic poultry in China. In this study, we describe the genetic and phylogenetic characteristics of a prevalent H5N6 strain in Guangdong, China.
Nucleotide sequencing identified a H5N6 subtype HPAIV, designated as A/chicken/Dongguan/1101/2019 (DG/19), with a multibasic cleavage site in the hemagglutinin (HA). Phylogenetic analysis revealed DG/19 was a reassortant of H5N1, H5N2, H5N8, and H6N6 subtypes of avian influenza viruses. A number of mammalian adaptive markers such as D36N in the HA were identified.
Our results showed that HPAIV H5N6 strains still emerge in well-managed groups of chicken farms. Considering the increasing prevalence of H5N6 HPAIV, and the fact that H5N6 HPAIVs are well adapted to migratory birds, an enhanced surveillance for the East Asian-Australasian flyway should be undertaken to prevent potential threats to the poultry industry and human health.