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Keywords:

  • Falconry;
  • genetic mixing;
  • H9N2 avian influenza viruses;
  • Middle East;
  • white-bellied bustard

Background

H9N2 avian influenza viruses continue to spread in poultry and wild birds throughout Eurasia.

Objectives

To characterize H9N2 influenza viruses from pheasants, quail, and white-bellied bustards (WBBs) used to train falcons in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Methods

Four H9N2 viruses were isolated from pheasants, quail, and WBB used for falconry in the UAE, and antigenic, molecular, phylogenetic analysis, and invivo characterization of H9N2 viruses were performed.

Results and conclusions

The pheasant and WBB isolates were antigenically and molecularly clearly related and along with the quail isolates contained multiple “avian–human” substitutions. The release of smuggled H9N2-infected birds for falconry may contribute to the spread of these viruses to wild birds, domestic poultry, and humans.