Pathobiology of highly pathogenic H5 avian influenza viruses in naturally infected Galliformes and Anseriformes in France during winter 2015-2016

Nicolas Gaide, Marie Noëlle Lucas, Mattias Delpont, Guillaume Croville, Kim M. Bouwman, Andreas Papanikolaou, Roosmarijn van der Woude, Iwan A. Gagarinov, Geert Jan Boons, Robert P. De Vries, Romain Volmer, Angélique Teillaud, Timothée Vergne, Céline Bleuart, Guillaume Le Loc'h, Maxence Delverdier, Jean Luc Guérin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In late 2015, an epizootic of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5Nx) was registered in Southwestern France, including more than 70 outbreaks in commercial poultry flocks. Phylogenetic analyses suggested local emergence of H5 viruses which differed from A/goose/Guangdong/1/1996 clade lineage and shared a unique polybasic cleavage site in their hemagglutinin protein. The present work provides an overview of the pathobiological picture associated with this epizootic in naturally infected chickens, guinea fowls and ducks. Upon necropsy examination, selected tissues were sampled for histopathology, immunohistochemistry and quantitative Real Time Polymerase Chain Reaction. In Galliformes, HPAIVs infection manifested as severe acute systemic vasculitis and parenchymal necrosis and was associated with endothelial expression of viral antigen. In ducks, lesions were mild and infrequent, with sparse antigenic detection in respiratory and digestive mucosae and leukocytes. Tissue quantifications of viral antigen and RNA were higher in chickens and guinea fowls compared to duck. Subsequently, recombinant HA (rHA) was generated from a H5 HPAIV isolated from an infected duck to investigate its glycan-binding affinity for avian mucosae. Glycan-binding analysis revealed strong affinity of rHA for 3'Sialyl-LacNAc and low affinity for Sialyl-LewisX, consistent with a duck-adapted virus similar to A/Duck/Mongolia/54/2001 (H5N2). K222R and S227R mutations on rHA sequence shifted affinity towards Sialyl-LewisX and led to an increased affinity for chicken mucosa, confirming the involvement of these two mutations in the glycan-binding specificity of the HA. Interestingly, the rHA glycan binding pattern of guinea fowl appeared intermediate between duck and chicken. The present study presents a unique pathobiological description of the H5 HPAIVs outbreaks that occurred in 2015-2016 in Southwestern France.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalVeterinary Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2022


  • H5
  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza
  • pathology
  • sialic acids
  • viral tropism


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