OAHN Wildlife Network Project: Assessing the use of passive water samples for the detection of influenza viruses (in progress)

Project Lead: Dr. Claire Jardine

Collaborators:  Dr. Alex Reid

Project Proposal

Current strategies used for avian influenza surveillance in wild birds in Canada involve testing live and dead wild birds for avian influenza viruses (AIV).  These approaches have limitations in terms of our ability to acquire samples from areas of particular concern, such as in the vicinity of poultry farms. One solution to these shortcomings is direct detection of AIV from the environment (i.e., water & floating particulates).  This approach has been used successfully for monitoring of SARS CoV-2 in municipal wastewater.

Adapting this approach for AIV surveillance in environmental water samples will allow us to target high risk areas and improve our ability to provide an early warning for AIV incursions into these areas.  Early warning of AIV incursions will allow producers to implement enhanced biosecurity protocols and protect their flocks.  This approach also offers the ability to monitor a substantial area (e.g., water in a flowing creek, or within the nearshore area of a small lake) with a single passive sample.  If successful, this technique could be utilized in a series of locations very rapidly and with limited labour, to allow a comprehensive evaluation of the presence and strains of AIV present in the environment.

The intent of this proposal is to refine, test, and validate the use of a passive sampler for AIV detection via PCR in water.  Our first step will be to test the passive sampler and sorbent material in the lab using influenza-spiked water samples to ensure the sorbent can capture influenza. The second step of this pilot project will be to test and validate the use of the passive water sampler in the field.  We will deploy the sampler at 3 sites where wild birds are being sampled for AIV this fall.  This will allow us to compare the AIV measurements using the passive sampler to the results from the live wild bird surveillance efforts.