Pathogenicity of West Nile Virus Lineage 1 to German Poultry
West Nile virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne virus that originates from Africa and at present causes neurological disease in birds, horses, and humans all around the globe. As West Nile fever is an important zoonosis, the role of free-ranging domestic poultry as a source of infection for humans should be evaluated. This study examined the pathogenicity of an Italian WNV lineage 1 strain for domestic poultry (chickens, ducks, and geese) held in Germany. All three species were subcutaneously injected with WNV, and the most susceptible species was also inoculated via mosquito bite. All species developed various degrees of viremia, viral shedding (oropharyngeal and cloacal), virus accumulation, and pathomorphological lesions. Geese were most susceptible, displaying the highest viremia levels. The tested waterfowl, geese, and especially ducks proved to be ideal sentinel species for WNV due to their high antibody levels and relatively low blood viral loads. None of the three poultry species can function as a reservoir/amplifying host for WNV, as their viremia levels most likely do not suffice to infect feeding mosquitoes. Due to the recent appearance of WNV in Germany, future pathogenicity studies should also include local virus strains.