Molecular, antigenic, and pathogenic characterization of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses isolated in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017

  • Augustin T. Twabela
  • Masatoshi Okamatsu
  • Georges Mbuyi Tshilenge
  • Serge Mpiana
  • Justin Masumu
  • Lam Thanh Nguyen
  • Keita Matsuno
  • Isabella Monne
  • Bianca Zecchin
  • Yoshihiro SakodaEmail author
Original Article


In May 2017, high mortality of chickens and Muscovy ducks due to the H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) was reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). In this study, we assessed the molecular, antigenic, and pathogenic features in poultry of the H5N8 HPAIV from the 2017 Congolese outbreaks. Phylogenetic analysis of the eight viral gene segments revealed that all 12 DR Congo isolates clustered in clade together with other H5N8 HPAIVs isolated in Africa and Eurasia, suggesting a possible common origin of these viruses. Antigenically, a slight difference was observed between the Congolese isolates and a representative virus from group C in the same clade. After intranasal inoculation with a representative DR Congo virus, high pathogenicity was observed in chickens and Muscovy ducks but not in Pekin ducks. Viral replication was higher in chickens than in Muscovy duck and Pekin duck organs; however, neurotropism was pronounced in Muscovy ducks. Our data confirmed the high pathogenicity of the DR Congo virus in chickens and Muscovy ducks, as observed in the field. National awareness and strengthening surveillance in the region are needed to better control HPAIVs.



We gratefully acknowledge the Food and Agriculture Organization–Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Disease, Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (ECTAD/FAO-CD), and the Japan Initiative for Global Research Network on Infectious Diseases (J-GRID), supported by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED), grant number JP18fm0108008, for greatly contributing to field sampling and shipments, respectively. This study was conducted under the doctoral program “Advanced Training Program for Fostering Global Leaders on Infectious Disease Control to Build Resilience against Public Health Emergencies” sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). We acknowledge the Global Initiative on the Sharing All Influenza Data and GenBank for the availability of sequences we used in this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving animals

The animal experiments were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University (approval numbers 16-0105 and 18-0037 for the antiserum preparation and the pathogenicity assessment, respectively). The experiments were performed according to the guidelines of the committee. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Hokkaido University, is accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, which it has maintained since 2007.

Supplementary material

705_2019_4456_MOESM1_ESM.pptx (200 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PPTX 200 kb)
705_2019_4456_MOESM2_ESM.pptx (76 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PPTX 75 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augustin T. Twabela
    • 1
    • 2
  • Masatoshi Okamatsu
    • 1
  • Georges Mbuyi Tshilenge
    • 2
  • Serge Mpiana
    • 2
  • Justin Masumu
    • 2
  • Lam Thanh Nguyen
    • 1
  • Keita Matsuno
    • 1
    • 3
  • Isabella Monne
    • 4
  • Bianca Zecchin
    • 4
  • Yoshihiro Sakoda
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Laboratory of Microbiology, Department of Disease Control, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.Central Veterinary Laboratory of KinshasaGombeDemocratic Republic of Congo
  3. 3.Global Station for Zoonosis Control, Global Institution for Collaborative Research and Education (GI-CoRE)Hokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  4. 4.Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale Delle VenezieLegnaroItaly

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