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Alteration of the Chicken Upper Respiratory Microbiota, Following H9N2 Avian Influenza Virus Infection.

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Bialy, Dagmara 
La Ragione, Roberto 
Shelton, Holly 


Several studies have highlighted the importance of the gut microbiota in developing immunity against viral infections in chickens. We have previously shown that H9N2 avian influenza A virus (AIV) infection retards the diversity of the natural colon-associated microbiota, which may further influence chicken health following recovery from infection. The effects of influenza infection on the upper respiratory tract (URT) microbiota are largely unknown. Here, we showed that H9N2 AIV infection lowers alpha diversity indices in the acute phase of infection in the URT, largely due to the family Lactobacillaceae being highly enriched during this time in the respiratory microbiota. Interestingly, microbiota diversity did not return to levels similar to control chickens in the recovery phase after viral shedding had ceased. Beta diversity followed a similar trend following the challenge. Lactobacillus associate statistically with the disturbed microbiota of infected chickens at the acute and recovery phases of infection. Additionally, we studied age-related changes in the respiratory microbiota during maturation in chickens. From 7 to 28 days of age, species richness and evenness were observed to advance over time as the microbial composition evolved. Maintaining microbiota homeostasis might be considered as a potential therapeutic target to prevent or aid recovery from H9N2 AIV infection.


Peer reviewed: True

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge colleagues at the Pirbright Institute who supported the in vivo work (Elizabeth Billington, Mohammad Khalid Zakaria, Jean-Remy Sadeyen and Munir Iqbal), the poultry unit team and Illumina MiSeq sequencing (Graham Freimanis).


H9N2, chicken, influenza, microbiota, respiratory tract, sequencing

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Pirbright Institute BBSRC ISP (BBS/E/I/00007030, BBS/E/I/00007034, BBS/E/I/00007038, BBS/E/I/00007039)