H5N2 viruses were isolated from cloacal swab samples of apparently healthy chickens in Taiwan in 2003 and 2008 during surveillance of avian influenza. Each of the viruses was eradicated by stamping out. The official diagnosis report indicated that the Intravenous Pathogenicity Indexes (IVPIs) of the isolates were 0.00 and 0.89, respectively, indicating that these were low pathogenic strains, although the hemagglutinin of the strain isolated in 2008 (Taiwan08) had multibasic amino acid residues at the cleavage site (PQRKKR/G). In the present study, these H5N2 viruses were assessed for their intravenous and intranasal pathogenicity for chickens. It was examined whether Taiwan08 acquires pathogenicity through consecutive passages in chickens. Intravenous pathogenicity of Taiwan08 depended upon the age of the chickens used for the IVPI test; all of the eight-week-old chickens intravenously inoculated with Taiwan08 showed clinical signs but survived for ten days post inoculation (IVPI=0.68), whereas all the six-week-old chickens died (IVPI=1.86). Taiwan08-P8, which were passaged in chickens for eight times, killed all the eight-week-old chickens (IVPI=2.36). The four-week-old chickens died after intranasal inoculation of Taiwan08-P8, indicating that Taiwan08 must have become highly pathogenic during circulation in chicken flocks. These results emphasize the importance of a stamping out policy for avian influenza even if the IVPI of the causal virus is low.
2011 by the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science