Scott H. Newman 1 , Nichola J. Hill 2 , 3 , Kyle A. Spragens 2 , Daniel Janies 4 , Igor O. Voronkin 4 , Diann J. Prosser 5 , Baoping Yan 6 , Fumin Lei 7 , Nyambayar Batbayar 8 , Tseveenmyadag Natsagdorj 9 , Charles M. Bishop 10 , Patrick J. Butler 11 , Martin Wikelski 12 , Sivananinthaperumal Balachandran 13 , Taej Mundkur 14 , David C. Douglas 15 , John Y. Takekawa 2 , *
7 February 2012
A unique pattern of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 outbreaks has emerged along the Central Asia Flyway, where infection of wild birds has been reported with steady frequency since 2005. We assessed the potential for two hosts of HPAI H5N1, the bar-headed goose ( Anser indicus) and ruddy shelduck ( Tadorna tadorna), to act as agents for virus dispersal along this ‘thoroughfare’. We used an eco-virological approach to compare the migration of 141 birds marked with GPS satellite transmitters during 2005–2010 with: 1) the spatio-temporal patterns of poultry and wild bird outbreaks of HPAI H5N1, and 2) the trajectory of the virus in the outbreak region based on phylogeographic mapping. We found that biweekly utilization distributions (UDs) for 19.2% of bar-headed geese and 46.2% of ruddy shelduck were significantly associated with outbreaks. Ruddy shelduck showed highest correlation with poultry outbreaks owing to their wintering distribution in South Asia, where there is considerable opportunity for HPAI H5N1 spillover from poultry. Both species showed correlation with wild bird outbreaks during the spring migration, suggesting they may be involved in the northward movement of the virus. However, phylogeographic mapping of HPAI H5N1 clades 2.2 and 2.3 did not support dissemination of the virus in a northern direction along the migration corridor. In particular, two subclades (2.2.1 and 2.3.2) moved in a strictly southern direction in contrast to our spatio-temporal analysis of bird migration. Our attempt to reconcile the disciplines of wild bird ecology and HPAI H5N1 virology highlights prospects offered by both approaches as well as their limitations.