Avian Influenza Virus Survival in Poultry Commodities, Poultry Manure and the Environment
Avian influenza (AI) outbreaks have recently caused severe losses to the poultry industry, its stakeholders and, ultimately, to the EU taxpayer. In addition, the ongoing Asian H5N1 outbreak is a serious concern for food security and human health worldwide.
In Asia, due to both social conditions and the particular characteristics of the H5N1 virus, the crossing of the species barrier represents a serious potential risk of a new human pandemic virus emerging. Evidence is growing that HPAI H5N1 is not only spreading by trade but is also carried by wild birds. H5N1-infected wild birds, mainly water fowl, have recently been detected in the European Union in Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Greece, Sweden and Poland. These findings are raising our awareness that H5N1 is becoming more and more endemic in wild birds. The finding of a cat, stone marten and raptors that died as result of infection with H5N1 has uncovered the consequences of this development.
More questions are being raised about the risk of contamination of surface water in relation to the health of other animals and humans. To answer these questions and to be able to assess the risks involved in trading in poultry commodities and litter, more knowledge about virus content of commodities, the stability of the virus in these products, in litter and the environment is needed.
The circulation of the HPAI virus in Asia and now also in the Middle East and Africa could represent the origin of a pandemic virus for humans, and a great number of questions have been raised with a view to finding a way to combat the ongoing AI crisis. Due to the lack of field and experimental data certain questions on virus survival in the environment and in poultry and other avian commodities are not yet answered and these knowledge gaps should be filled following the results of the ongoing and new research efforts of the scientific community.[+] Read More
The aim of the project is to obtain data and provide knowledge about the presence of influenza viruses in commodities and litter of infected poultry. In order to develop validated protocols for cleansing, disinfection and treatment of litter and to be able to assess the risk of carcass disposal, treated litter, and poultry commodities such as meat, feathers and eggs, the virus survival will be determined in a standardised manner in different environments. The project also aims to create knowledge about environmental factors that influence virus stability. Data collected will be used for proper risk assessment of the trade in treated and fresh poultry commodities, poultry litter and the contaminated environment.
Research will provide data on survival of different avian influenza viruses, and the effect of physical parameters such as pH and temperature on survival. Virus concentrations in poultry commodities such as meat, feathers and eggs will be determined. Studies will generate quantitative data on survival of viruses in these commodities at ambient temperatures and at temperatures used to treat poultry products.
Furthermore, knowledge will be obtained on whether certain soils, lake silts and living organisms, enteric factors of waterfowl, sterile faeces or gut flora and sewage pollution increases or decreases virus survival. Based on the results protocols for waste treatment, carcass disposal and disinfection will be adapted and or validated. Data will be used to make proper risk assessments.
The current threat from avian influenza poses serious threats to the poultry industry, and perhaps eventually to man. In view of these threats, society faces a number of problems and this project is designed to provide the scientific data to underpin the formulation of any response and a basis for the development of further measures of bio-security. Any such response must be driven by an understanding of the behaviour of the virus both in its host and the environment and particularly in relation to the way in which humans interact with both.
Threats to industry include the introduction of virus from wild populations or trade; this in turn threatens the competitiveness of the industry: an outbreak would certainly restrict a nation's trading capacity and have severe consequences for those engaged in the industry. Similarly, consumer misgivings over the safety of poultry, and even meat or eggs of vaccinated poultry, have to be addressed even for consumption at home.
Finally, in the event of an outbreak there would be a need to dispose of a large quantity of carcasses and litter and the virological consequences of this have to be considered if we are to avoid potential contamination problems for ground and surface water and even possibilities of virus survival in soil. For these reasons this project is designed to provide data on the levels and stability of virus in different materials, particularly avian materials and products, and thus help calm public concerns.