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Pathogenesis of West Nile Virus Lineage 2 in Domestic Geese after Experimental Infection

West Nile virus (WNV) is an emerging infectious pathogen circulating between mosquitoes and birds but also infecting mammals. WNV has become autochthonous in Germany, causing striking mortality rates in avifauna and occasional diseases in humans and horses. We therefore wanted to assess the possible role of free-ranging poultry in the WNV transmission cycle and infected 15 goslings with WNV lineage 2 (German isolate). The geese were monitored daily and sampled regularly to determine viremia, viral shedding, and antibody development by molecular and serological methods. Geese were euthanized at various time points post-infection (pi). All infected geese developed variable degrees of viremia from day 1 to day 10 (maximum) and actively shed virus from days 2 to 7 post-infection. Depending on the time of death, the WN viral genome was detected in all examined tissue samples in at least one individual by RT-qPCR and viable virus was even re-isolated, except for in the liver. Pathomorphological lesions as well as immunohistochemically detectable viral antigens were found mainly in the brain. Furthermore, all of the geese seroconverted 6 days pi at the latest. In conclusion, geese are presumably not functioning as important amplifying hosts but are suitable sentinel animals for WNV surveillance.



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