Pakistan Sees H9 Flu as Next Threat to Industry

PAKISTAN - Poultry industry experts are calling on the government to help prevent control H9 avian influenza in the country. The H9 sub-type of the virus is described as 'non-pathogenic' but has become endemic in the poultry industry and causes mortality when other infectious agents are also present.
calendar icon 31 December 2010
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Daily Times of Pakistan reports that avian influenza is the most important historical viral infection in poultry industry causing huge economic losses.

The poultry experts made the warning on 30 December and asked the Ministry of Livestock and Dairy Development to take concrete measures to avert onslaught of the H9 virus in the country.

Keeping in view the importance of the disease a project was undertaken at University of Veterinary and Animal sciences Lahore to reproduce disease as observed in field conditions and to study the effect of H9 virus along with co-infection with Mycoplasma and E. coli infection and under immunosuppressive condition in broiler chickens and to asses its zoonotic potential in human beings.

Global movement of animals for the pet trade is estimated to be some 350 million live animals, worth approximately $20 billion per year. Approximately one-quarter of this trade is thought to be illegal, hence not inspected or tested. Disease outbreaks resulting from trade in wildlife have caused hundreds of billions of dollars of economic damage globally.

H9 viruses were reported for the first time in Pakistan in 1999 but are now endemic in poultry industry in Pakistan causing five to 30 per cent mortality in field conditions.

"The occurrence of the disease, experimentally produced by H9 virus, along with co-infection of secondary pathogens such as Mycoplasma gallisepticum and E. coli and in chemically induced immunosuppressive condition, was also studied," poultry expert, Syed Muhammad Subtain said.

It was found that E. coli and Mycoplasma gallisepticum induced increased severity of the disease and caused mortality in 40 per cent and 25 per cent of birds, respectively, while under immunosuppressive condition only five per cent mortality was observed.

In third part of experiment, the zoonotic potential of H9 virus infection in human beings working in close association to poultry industry was studied by serological methods.

The virus prevailing in Pakistan was found non-pathogenic with intravenous administration, reports Daily Times. This treatment produced significant reduction in body weight and caused disease in kidneys and respiratory system. Modern diagnostic techniques (Immunohistochemical detection of viral antigen and rapid molecular detection of virus from tissues by using Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction) were used to detect the virus in the tissues, he added.

From this project, it seems reasonable to conclude that virus H9 prevailing in poultry industry in Pakistan belongs to non-pathogenic Asian sub-lineage, which do not produce mortality, but produce significant reduction in weight gain of infected birds, another expert, Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry said.

They also expressed concern over the National Reference Laboratory for Poultry Diseases (NRLPD) in Islamabad, which has not yet upgraded to Bio-Security Level (BSL)-3 despite receiving approval over two years ago.

It is necessary to upgrade this lab to BSL-3 to make it more effective and to protect the lives of the people working there.

This lab has the ability of analysing the behaviour and structure of all types of viruses, and it has been performing this duty with regard to the bird flu virus since 2004.

The new equipment would enable the lab to test samples to determine the strain of the avian flu virus within six hours.

The Daily Times report concludes that FAO's Animal Production and Health Division (AGA), in collaboration with the Development Law Service of the Legal Office, will continue to assist member countries wishing to take full advantage of the rapidly growing and transforming livestock sector.

Further Reading

- You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.
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