In spring 2006, highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) of subtype H5N1 was detected in Austria in 119 dead wild birds. The hemagglutinin cleavage site showed that the amino acid sequence motif was identical to that of the Qinghai lineage. For detailed analysis, the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes of 27 selected Austrian H5N1 viruses originating from different regions and wild bird species were analyzed phylogenetically, which revealed two clearly separated Austrian subclusters, both belonging to European cluster EMA-1. Subcluster South (SCS) contains virus isolates from the south of Austria as well as from Slovenia, Turkey, Egypt, and Nigeria. The second subcluster, Northwest (SCN), covered a larger group of viruses originating from different locations and wild bird species in the northern and very western parts of Austria, as well as from Bavaria and Switzerland. Surprisingly, virus isolates originating from two mute swans and one wild duck found on the north side of the Alps did not cluster with SCN but with SCS. Together with isolates from Bavarian, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Slovakia, they form a genuine subgroup, named subgroup Bavaria (SGB). This subgroup forms a link to SCN, indicating a spread of the virus from south to north. There has been a general assumption that the generic HPAI introduction route into Europe was from Russia to north Germany, introducing cluster EMA-2 into Europe. Interestingly, our findings support the assumption of an alternative introduction of the HPAI H5N1 virus from Turkey to central Europe, where it spread as cluster EMA-1 during the outbreak of 2006.
Animals Austria Birds Disease Outbreaks* Genes, Viral Hemagglutinins/genetics Influenza A Virus, H5N1 Subtype/genetics* Influenza in Birds/epidemiology* Neuraminidase/genetics Phylogeny Topography, Medical