Waterfowl infected with avian influenza A viruses (IAVs) shed infectious virus into aquatic environments, providing a mechanism for transmission among waterfowl, while also exposing the entire aquatic ecosystem to the virus. Aquatic invertebrates such as freshwater snails are likely exposed to IAVs in the water column and sediment. Freshwater snails comprise a significant portion of some waterfowl species’ diets, so this trophic interaction may serve as a novel route of IAV transmission. In these experiments, tadpole snails (Physa spp.) were exposed to a low-pathogenicity IAV (H3N8) to determine whether snails can accumulate the virus and, if so, how long virus persists in snail tissues. Snail tissues were destructively sampled and tested by reverse-transcription quantitative real-time PCR. Our experiments demonstrated that tadpole snails do accumulate IAV RNA in their tissues, although at low titers, for at least 96 h. These results indicate that it may be possible for IAV transmission to occur between waterfowl via ingestion of a natural invertebrate prey item; however, the time frame for transmission may be limited.

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