Antigenic evolution of contemporary clade 220.127.116.11 HPAI H5 influenza A viruses and impact on vaccine use for mitigation and control
Since 2003, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses of the H5 subtype have been maintained in poultry, periodically spilling back into wild migratory birds and spread to other geographic regions, with re-introduction to domestic birds causing severe impacts for poultry health, production and food sustainability. Successive waves of infection have also resulted in substantial genetic evolution and reassortment, enabling the emergence of multiple clades and subtypes within the H5 18.104.22.168 HPAI viruses. Control of AI is principally through either culling or through vaccination using conventional vaccines. Here, we antigenically and genetically characterise the emerging 2020/21 H5NX clade 22.214.171.124 strains and assess cross-reactivity to putative vaccine strains using chicken antisera. We demonstrate significant antigenic differences between commercially available poultry vaccines and currently circulating viruses suggesting that vaccination options might be suboptimal in the current outbreaks.