Biological Sciences Faculty Publications

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Influenza A virus infects a large proportion of the human population annually, sometimes leading to the deaths of millions. The biotic cycles of infection are well characterized in the literature, including in studies of populations of humans, poultry, swine, and migratory waterfowl. However, there are few studies of abiotic reservoirs for this virus. Here, we report the preservation of influenza A virus genes in ice and water from high-latitude lakes that are visited by large numbers of migratory birds. The lakes are along the migratory flight paths of birds flying into Asia, North America, Europe, and Africa. The data suggest that influenza A virus, deposited as the birds begin their autumn migration, can be preserved in lake ice. As birds return in the spring, the ice melts, releasing the viruses. Therefore, temporal gene flow is facilitated between the viruses shed during the previous year and the viruses newly acquired by birds during winter months spent in the south. Above the Arctic Circle, the cycles of entrapment in the ice and release by melting can be variable in length, because some ice persists for several years, decades, or longer. This type of temporal gene flow might be a feature common to viruses that can survive entrapment in environmental ice and snow. Copyright © 2006, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.

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Journal of Virology


American Society for Microbiology


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