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Shauntelle Menlove

Scientific Article Summary


Experimental Susceptibility of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) For West Nile Virus

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a disease spread through mosquitos and orally. It has affected

the bird populations (including several species of ducks) across the continental United States

and southern Canada. WNV is a problem as it can cause illness if a person become infected with

the disease. Birds are amplifier hosts which means they can produce enough of the virus to

infect other mosquitos, which can then infect humans or other mammals. Studies have shown

that Mallards and Aigamo ducks have been reported to be susceptible to WNV. One study

results showed a prevalence of WNV antibody in Mallards and Northern Pintails that was more

than twice the prevalence in wood ducks. This study determined wood ducks susceptibility and

immune response of exposure to WNV.

Four-week old ducklings were obtained and separated into two groups: 5 non-WNV

inoculated controls in separate housing and 3 contact controls housed with 14 WNV-challenged

birds. At 6-weeks, each duckling was given a physical, and blood samples were taken to create a

baseline WNV serology. The WNV-challenged were split into two additional subgroups and

sampled on alternate days. After 14 days of sampling, the ducks were euthanized and samples

from the skin, trachea, lung, heart, crop, ventriculus, intestine, pancreas, liver, spleen, kidney,

bone marrow, sciatic nerve, pectoral muscle, optic tectum, cerebrum, cerebellum and brain

stem were taken. These samples were then screened for WNV through a culturing process and

tested for antibodies.

None of the contact controls became infected with WNV. Oral shedding of WNV was

detected between day 1 and day 4 pi (post-inoculation) and detected in cloacal swabs on days 3

and 4 pi. Generally, if a bird was shedding WNV orally, it was also shedding virus from the

cloaca. No gross lesions were detected, but microscopic lesions were found in WNV challenged

birds, frequently in the heart (77%), cerebellum (69%), brain stem (46%), cerebrum (31%), optic

tectum (31%), and skin (31%). The peak in viremia titers (where transmission to mosquitoes is

highest) was detected on day 2 pi. There was no correlation between viremia and microscopic


WNV transmission among wood ducks is probably minimal, they do not produce enough

viremia to infect many mosquitoes as compared to other animals (chickens, aigamo ducks,

mallards) researched infected with WNV. Although there was WNV shedding orally and from

the cloaca (which may spread the disease to other waterbirds), the risk is unknown, but

probably minimal. The tissues from the infected wood ducks revealed lesions, however, they

were much less severe than the lesions reported in the Rouen ducks, and occurred less

frequently than those observed in the Lesser Scaup. Wood ducks fall into the susceptibility class

in which the species only suffers minor clinical signs of WNV and mounts an early and robust

immune response.