Identifying crucial gaps in our knowledge of the life-history of avian influenza viruses - An Australian perspective
We review our current knowledge of the epidemiology and ecology of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) in Australia in relation to the ecology of their hosts. Understanding the transmission and maintenance of low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) viruses deserves scientific scrutiny because some of these may evolve to a high-pathogenic AIV (HPAI) phenotype. That the HPAI H5N1 has not been detected in Australia is thought to be a result of the low level of migratory connectivity between Asia and Australia. Some AIV strains are endemic to Australia, with Australian birds acting as a reservoir for these viruses. However, given the phylogenetic relationships between Australian and Eurasian strains, both avian migrants and resident birds within the continent must play a role in the ecology and epidemiology of AIVs in Australia. The extent to which individual variation in susceptibility to infection, previous infections, and behavioural changes in response to infection determine AIV epidemiology is little understood. Prevalence of AIVs among Australian avifauna is apparently low but, given their specific ecology and Australian conditions, prevalence may be higher in little-researched species and under specific environmental conditions.