The presence of the bird flu virus was confirmed for the first time in Antarctica

Scientists at the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), under the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities, have confirmed the presence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus for the first time in Antarctica.

The group of scientists led by the CSIC researcher Antonio Alcamiwho works at the Spanish Antarctic base “Gabriel de Castilla” on Deception Island, confirmed the presence of the virus last February 24th.

Specifically, it was found in two samples from skuas (Skuas) dead that were found by Argentine scientists near the Argentine Antarctic base “Primavera”.

The samples were obtained using the greatest possible protective measures to prevent the virus from being transmitted to people. After sample collection, the viruses contained therein were immediately inactivated to enable safe testing. The samples were then transported by an Argentine ship of the Combined Antarctic Patrol, with all security measures in place, to the Spanish Antarctic base Gabriel de Castilla on the island of Decepción, where they were analyzed by CSIC researchers. Angela Vazquez and Antonio Alcami.

The viruses contained therein were immediately inactivated to enable safe examination.

The analysis conclusively showed that the birds were infected with the H5 subtype of avian influenza and that at least one of the dead birds contained the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus. These analyzes consisted of specific PCRs for the influenza virus and the H5 subtype, followed by sequencing of the protease cut region, which defines with 100% certainty the presence of the avian influenza virus.

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This confirmation was thanks to international cooperation, especially with Argentina, and the coordination of the Spanish Polar Committee. International Antarctic organizations that collaborated include the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), which were informed of the discoveries under the Antarctic Treaty.

Prepared to prevent human infections

This discovery will make it possible to prepare national polar programs to prevent the transmission of the virus Infection by humans and above all, avoid infecting people.

This discovery shows for the first time that the bird flu virus reached Antarctica despite the distance and natural barriers separating it from other continents. This finding could also explain that Bird deaths recorded during the Antarctic summer.

This finding could explain bird deaths recorded during the Antarctic summer

The variant has been found in many places in the northern hemisphere and, since last summer, in the southern hemisphere. The virus has recently been described in the sub-Antarctic islands, but although significant deaths of some birds have been reported in the Antarctic region, No country had detected the presence of this virus in the Antarctic region.

Spain introduced the protocol against highly pathogenic avian influenza in Antarctica in November, before the start of the campaign, which was scrupulously followed by all participants in the program.

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