Scientists complete analysis of duck genome, further influenza research

Scientists from China Agricultural University, BGI, University of Edinburgh and other institutes have completed the genome sequencing and analysis of the duck, a prime natural host of the influenza A viruses, for the first time.

Ducks are known to remain asymptomatic when infected with the flu. Researchers used a 10-week old female Beijing duck and conducted transcriptomic studies on two ducks infected with the influenza virus to find the missing link between host and virus.

The research resulted in the draft sequence of a waterfowl duck and indicated the duck contains a contractive immune gene to the influenza, as other bird carriers do. The duck also showed new genes not present in the other three birds known to be carriers, which include the chicken, zebra finch and turkey.

Researchers compared gene expression in the lungs of infected ducks to other pathogenic avian influenza H5N1 viruses and identified patterns that were altered in response. They also found a potential for the duck to have avian and mammalian-defensin gene families.

"This study provides very important data to better understand the interaction between the host and the avian influenza," Jianwen Li, project manager from BGI said. "Scientists will be able to explore more deeply the mechanisms on the spread and infection of avian influenza."