[Source: Veterinary Research, full page: (LINK). Abstract, edited.]
A global model of avian influenza prediction in wild birds: the importance of northern regions
Keiko A Herrick, Falk Huettmann and Michael A Lindgren
Veterinary Research 2013, 44:42 doi:10.1186/1297-9716-44-42
Published: 13 June 2013
Avian influenza virus (AIV) is enzootic to wild birds, which are its natural reservoir. The virus exhibits a large degree of genetic diversity and most of the isolated strains are of low pathogenicity to poultry. Although AIV is nearly ubiquitous in wild bird populations, highly pathogenic H5N1 subtypes in poultry have been the focus of most modeling efforts. To better understand viral ecology of AIV, a predictive model should 1) include wild birds, 2) include all isolated subtypes, and 3) cover the host's natural range, unbounded by artificial country borders. As of this writing, there are few large-scale predictive models of AIV in wild birds. We used the Random Forests algorithm, an ensemble data-mining machine-learning method, to develop a global-scale predictive map of AIV, identify important predictors, and describe the environmental niche of AIV in wild bird populations. The model has an accuracy of 0.79 and identified northern areas as having the highest relative predicted risk of outbreak. The primary niche was described as regions of low annual rainfall and low temperatures. This study is the first global-scale model of low-pathogenicity avian influenza in wild birds and underscores the importance of largely unstudied northern regions in the persistence of AIV.