Influenza Susceptibility and Resistance in 72 Wildlife Species: Implications for Conservation and Collection Management
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2011

Mark D. Schrenzel1, DVM, PhD, DACVP; Bobo W.Y. Mok2, PhD; Yi Guan2, PhD; Bruce A. Rideout1, DVM, PhD, DACVP

1Wildlife Disease Laboratories, Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global, Escondido, CA, USA; 2The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China


To better understand the potential impacts of influenza pandemics on wildlife and the role of alternative hosts in disease ecology, we evaluated tissues from seventy-two wildlife species for expression of avian and human influenza virus receptors (α-2,3 and α-2,6 sialic acid residues, respectively) using lectin histochemistry and performed in situ binding assays with avian and human-adapted viruses.

Potential susceptibility to infection as indicated by the type of influenza virus receptor expressed was not always consistent within taxa. Nine species of small and large felids and four species of viverrids consistently expressed receptors for both avian and human influenza viruses. In contrast, four species of Canidae expressed receptors for avian influenza viruses only, while three expressed receptors for both avian and human influenza viruses. In the families Mustelidae (10 spp.), Procyonidae (4 spp.), Ursidae (3 spp.), and Suidae (3 spp.), all species examined expressed receptors for human influenza viruses, but a few individual species from each family also expressed receptors for avian influenza viruses. Among the great apes, lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) and pygmy chimpanzees (Pan paniscus) expressed only avian influenza receptors, while Sumatran orangutans (Pongo abelii) expressed neither receptor.

Although virus receptor expression is only one component of disease susceptibility, our findings correlated well with previously published reports of influenza virus infections in wildlife.1-3 Collectively, these data will enable zoo and wildlife managers to respond more appropriately to influenza pandemics, and will provide improved tools for modeling future effects as viruses continue to spill over into alternate hosts.

Literature Cited

1.  Gagneux P, Cheriyan M, Hurtado-Ziola N, vander Linden EC, Anderson D, McClure H, Varki A, Varki NM. Human-specificregulation of alpha 2-6-linked sialic acids. J Biol Chem. 2003;278(48):48245–48250.

2.  Keawcharoen J, Oraveerakul K, Kuiken T, Fouchier RA, Amonsin A, Payungporn S, Noppornpanth S, Wattanodorn S, Theambooniers A, Tantilertcharoen R, Pattanarangsan R, Arya N, Ratanakorn P, Osterhaus DM, Poovorawan Y. Avian influenza H5N1 in tigers and leopards. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004;10(12):2189–2191.

3.  Schrenzel MD, Tucker TA, Stalis IH, Kagan RA, Burns RP, Denison AM, Drew CP, Paddock CD, Rideout BA. Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus in 3 new wildlife species. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011;17(4):747–749.


Speaker Information
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Bruce A. Rideout, DVM, PhD, DACVP
Wildlife Disease Laboratories
Institute for Conservation Research
San Diego Zoo Global
Escondido, CA, USA

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