H9N2 influenza virus isolated from minks has enhanced virulence in mice.
H9N2 is one of the major subtypes of influenza virus circulating in poultry in China, which has a wide host range from bird to mammals. Two H9N2 viruses were isolated from one mink farm in 2014. Phylogenetic analysis showed that internal genes of the H9N2 viruses have close relationship with those of H7N9 viruses. Interestingly, two H9N2 were separated in phylogenetic trees, indicating that they are introduced to this mink farm in two independent events. And further mice studies showed that one H9N2 caused obvious weight loss and 20% mortality in infected mice, while another virus did not cause any clinical sign in mice infected at the same dose. Genetic analysis indicated that the virulent H9N2 contain a natural mutation at 701N in PB2 protein, which was reported to contribute to mammalian adaptation. However, such substitution is absent in the H9N2 avirulent to mice. Circulation of H9N2 in mink may drive the virus to adapt mammals; continual surveillance of influenza virus in mink was warranted.