A study by the U.S. Geological Survey, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the Chinese Academy of Sciences used satellites, outbreak data and genetics to uncover an unknown link in Tibet among wild birds, poultry and the movement of the often-deadly virus.
Researchers attached GPS satellite transmitters to 29 bar-headed geese – a wild species that migrates across most of Asia and that died in the thousands in the 2005 bird flu outbreak in Qinghai Lake, China. GPS data showed that wild geese tagged at Qinghai Lake spend their winters in a region outside of Lhasa, the capitol of Tibet, near farms where H5N1 outbreaks have occurred in domestic geese and chickens.
This is the first evidence of a mechanism for transmission between domestic farms and wild birds, said Diann Prosser, a USGS biologist at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. “Our research suggests initial outbreaks in poultry in winter, followed by outbreaks in wild birds in spring and in the breeding season. The telemetry data also show that during winter, wild geese use agricultural fields and wetlands near captive bar-headed geese and chicken farms where outbreaks have occurred.”
The part that wild birds play in the spread of bird flu has been hotly debated since the 2005 outbreaks in Qinghai Lake. Bird flu that spread beyond Asia and into Europe and Africa was later found to have genetically originated in the Qinghai Lake area. Discovering the Tibet connection adds another significant link in the global transmission of bird flu.
From 2003 through 2009, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau experienced 16 confirmed outbreaks of the virus in wild and domestic birds, most of them in the newly documented migratory pathway of the wild bar-headed geese. “Every summer, more than 150,000 migratory birds use Qinghai Lake, which sits within the eastern portion of the Central Asian Flyway, which extends from India to Russia,” said John Takekawa, a wildlife biologist at the USGS Western Ecological Research Center.
The study also uncovered an undocumented migratory link between Qinghai Lake and Mongolia, further suggesting that Qinghai may be a pivotal point of H5N1 transmission.
Scott Newman, Head of the EMPRES Wildlife Health and Ecology Unit of the FAO, noted that poultry production at the southern end of the Central Asian Flyway is extensive, which has resulted in many more HPAI H5N1 outbreaks there than in the northern end, where poultry production is more limited. “In general,” said Newman, “H5N1 outbreaks along this flyway mirror human and poultry densities, with domestic poultry the primary reservoir for this disease.”
This study is part of a global program to not only better understand the movement of avian influenza viruses and other diseases in the Central Asian Flyway, but also to improve the understanding of the ecological habits of waterbirds internationally, identify important conservation issues, and better define interactions among wild and domestic birds.
The H5N1 virus continues to reemerge across much of Eurasia and Africa, with high fatality rates in people, and the threat of a possible global pandemic. Since 2003, H5N1 has killed 300 people, including 18 in 2010, and has led to the culling of more than 250 million domestic poultry throughout Eurasia and Africa. Sixteen countries reported H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in 2010. No HPAI H5N1 has been detected in North America, despite extensive efforts to test migratory birds to provide early warnings should birds with the virus arrive in the country.
The study was funded by the USGS, FAO, National Science Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It was published in PLoS ONE and authored by Diann J Prosser, Peng Cui, John Y. Takekawa, Scott Newman and others.
The research partnership has a website where people can follow the daily movements of the satellite-tagged birds, including maps in Google Earth.
Diann Prosser | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering