Proteolytic bacteria in the lower digestive tract of poultry may affect avian influenza virus pathogenicity Academic Article uri icon


  • Proteolytic cleavage of hemagglutinin is required for cell entry by receptor-mediated endocytosis and plays a key role in pathogenicity of the influenza virus. Despite several studies describing relationships between bacterial proteases and influenza A viral activation in mammals, very little is known about the role of the normal bacterial flora of birds on hemagglutinin activation. We examined the indigenous intestinal microflora of 100 mixed-sex, 27-d-old Ross chickens from a commercial poultry facility for protease-secreting bacteria. Protease-secreting bacteria were isolated from 82 of 100 chickens with 50 birds exhibiting 2 or more protease-secreting bacterial species. A total of 20 protease-secreting bacterial species were identified: 17 gram-positive cocci, 2 gram-positive rods, and 1 gram-negative rod. Enterococcus faecalis, Enterococcus gallinarum, and Proteus mirabilis were the most frequently observed protease-secreting bacterial species. The presence of proteolytic bacteria in the intestinal tract of poultry in this study suggests the possibility of yet-to-be-described role(s) in cleavage of hemagglutinin that may alter the pathogenicity of avian influenza viruses.

author list (cited authors)

  • King, M. D., Guentzel, M. N., Arulanandam, B. P., Lupiani, B., & Chambers, J. P.

citation count

  • 13

publication date

  • July 2009