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Genetic and antigenic characterization of avian influenza H9N2 viruses during 2016 in Iraq

Nadira S. Mohamed
Ahmed Kandeil
Ibrahim A.H. AL-Zubaidy
Ghazi Kayali
Mohamed A. Ali


Background: Little is known about the antigenic and genetic characteristics of influenza A viruses circulating in poultry in Iraq.

Objective: This study describes the genetic and antigenic characteristics of the detected avian influenza H9N2 viruses in Iraq during 2016.

Methods: Full genome sequences of two H9N2 viruses isolated from chickens in Iraq during 2016 were assembled. Antigenic analyses of Iraqi H9N2 viruses and contemporary H9N2 isolates from Lebanon and Egypt were performed by hemagglutination inhibition assay.

Results: Phylogenetic analysis of surface glycoproteins and internal segments (PB2, PA, NP, M, and NS) indicated that the Iraqi H9N2 viruses were closely related to G1-like lineage of H9N2 viruses isolated from Pakistan and Iran indicating possible epidemiological links. The PB1 segments of the current characterized H9N2 viruses were not related to any of the previously characterized H9N2 viruses and closely similar to H7N7 virus detected in chickens in Germany in 2015. Multiple genetic determinants for virulence and mammalian transmission were characterized in the characterized H9N2 viruses in Iraq. The antigenic analysis showed a close relationship between H9N2 viruses in Iraq and contemporary H9N2 viruses in Egypt and Lebanon. Like H9N2 viruses, Iraqis H9N2 virus bound to human-like receptor rather than avian-like receptor thus represent a public health risk.

Conclusion: Active surveillance of avian influenza virus in poultry and migratory birds should be adopted to monitor the genesis and emergence of new viruses in Iraq.

Keywords: Avian influenza virus, H9N2, Iraq

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2218-6050
print ISSN: 2226-4485