Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New Research Suggests Wild Birds May Play a Role in the Spread of Bird Flu

Wild migratory birds may indeed play a role in the spread of bird flu, also known as highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1.

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!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>