Article

Ecologic Immunology of Avian Influenza (H5N1) in Migratory Birds

European Commission's Joint Research Centre, Ispra, Italy.
Emerging infectious diseases (Impact Factor: 7.33). 09/2007; 13(8):1139-43. DOI: 10.3201/eid1308.070319
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The claim that migratory birds are responsible for the long-distance spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses of subtype H5N1 rests on the assumption that infected wild birds can remain asymptomatic and migrate long distances unhampered. We critically assess this claim from the perspective of ecologic immunology, a research field that analyzes immune function in an ecologic, physiologic, and evolutionary context. Long-distance migration is one of the most demanding activities in the animal world. We show that several studies demonstrate that such prolonged, intense exercise leads to immunosuppression and that migratory performance is negatively affected by infections. These findings make it unlikely that wild birds can spread the virus along established long-distance migration pathways. However, infected, symptomatic wild birds may act as vectors over shorter distances, as appears to have occurred in Europe in early 2006.

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