Chickens, quail, and other land-based birds are extensively farmed around the world. They have been recently implicated in zoonotic outbreaks of avian influenza in Hong Kong. The possibility that land-based birds could act as mixing vessels or disseminators of avian/mammalian reassortant influenza A viruses with pandemic potential has not been evaluated. In this report, we investigated whether chickens and Japanese quail are susceptible to a mammalian influenza virus (A/swine/Texas/4199-2/98 [H3N2]). This virus did not grow in chickens and replicated to low levels in Japanese quail but did not transmit. Replacing the H3 gene of this virus for one of the avian H9 viruses resulted in transmission of the avian/swine reassortant virus among quail but not among chickens. Our findings demonstrated that Japanese quail could provide an environment in which viruses like the A/swine/Texas/4199-2/98 [H3N2] virus could further reassort and generate influenza viruses with pandemic potential.

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