In July 2018, a novel avian influenza virus (A/Mandarin duck/South Korea/KNU18-12/2018(H11N9)) was isolated from Mandarin ducks in South Korea. Phylogenetic and molecular analyses were conducted to characterize the genetic origins of the H11N9 strain. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that eight gene segments of strain H11N9 belonged to the Eurasian lineages. Analysis of nucleotide sequence similarity of both the hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes revealed the highest homology with A/duck/Kagoshima/KU57/2014 (H11N9), showing 97.70% and 98.00% nucleotide identities, respectively. Additionally, internal genes showed homology higher than 98% compared to those of other isolates derived from duck and wild birds. Both the polymerase acidic (PA) and polymerase basic 1 (PB1) genes were close to the H5N3 strain isolated in China; whereas, other internal genes were closely related to that of avian influenza virus in Japan. A single basic amino acid at the HA cleavage site (PAIASR↓GLF), the lack of a five-amino acid deletion (residue 69–73) in the stalk region of the NA gene, and E627 in the polymerase basic 2 (PB2) gene indicated that the A/Mandarin duck/South Korea/KNU18-12/2018(H11N9) isolate was a typical low-pathogenicity avian influenza. In vitro viral replication of H11N9 showed a lower titer than H1N1 and higher than H9N2. In mice, H11N9 showed lower adaptation than H1N1. The novel A/Mandarin duck/South Korea/KNU18-12/2018(H11N9) isolate may have resulted from an unknown reassortment through the import of multiple wild birds in Japan and Korea in approximately 2016–2017, evolving to produce a different H11N9 compared to the previous H11N9 in Korea (2016). Further reassortment events of this virus occurred in PB1 and PA in China-derived strains. These results indicate that Japanese- and Chinese-derived avian influenza contributes to the genetic diversity of A/Mandarin duck/South Korea/KNU18-12/2018(H11N9) in Korea.
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