Migratory birds play a critical role in the rapid spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N8 virus clade 188.8.131.52 across Eurasia. Elucidating the timing and pattern of virus transmission is essential therefore for understanding the spatial dissemination of these viruses. In this study, we surveyed >27000 wild birds in China, tracked the year-round migration patterns of 20 bird species across China since 2006, and generated new HPAI H5N8 virus genomic data. Using this new dataset, we investigated the seasonal transmission dynamics of HPAI H5N8 viruses across Eurasia. We found that introductions of HPAI H5N8 viruses to different Eurasian regions were associated with the seasonal migration of wild birds. Moreover, we report a backflow of HPAI H5N8 virus lineages from Europe to Asia, suggesting that Europe acts as both a source and a sink in the global HPAI virus transmission network.
Mol Biol Evol