Commercial poultry are at risk from contracting harmful bird flu from migrating flocks of wild birds, a study claims.
Research, involving Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute, studied the genetic makeup of the 2016-17 bird flu virus in various birds at key stages during the flu season.
Researchers analysed genetic sequence data from virus samples collected during the outbreak together with details of where, when and in which bird species they originated.
They found the virus could easily exchange genetic material with other, less harmful viruses at times and locations corresponding with bird migratory cycles.
Migrating birds harbouring weaker viruses were found to be more likely to survive their journey and potentially pass disease to domestic birds.
“Bird flu viruses can readily exchange genetic material with other influenza viruses and this, in combination with repeated transmission of viruses between domestic and wild birds, means that a viral strain can emerge and persist in wild bird populations, which carries a high risk of disease for poultry,” said Dr Sam Lycett from the Roslin Institute.