Biological characterization of wild-bird-origin avian avulavirus 1 and efficacy of currently applied vaccines against potential infection in commercial poultry

Newcastle disease virus (NDV), the type member of the species Avian avulavirus 1 (formerly known as avian paramyxovirus serotype 1), causes a highly contagious and economically important disease in a myriad of avian species around the globe. While extensive vaccination programs have been implemented in ND-endemic countries, the disease is continuously spreading in commercial, backyard, and wild captive poultry. In order to investigate the evolution of the virus and assess the efficiency of the vaccine regimens that are currently being applied in commercial poultry, four wild-bird-origin NDV strains were characterized biologically, based on mean death time and intracerebral pathogenicity index, and genetically, based on the cleavage motif (112RRQKRF117) in the fusion (F) protein. Based on these features, all of the isolates were characterized as velogenic strains of NDV. Phylogenetic analysis based on the complete genome sequence revealed clustering of these isolates within class II, genotype VII. This class of NDV remains the predominant genotype in the Egyptian poultry industry, as well as in those of many Asian and African countries. To investigate the potential of these wild-bird-origin NDV isolates to cause infection in domesticated poultry and to assess the efficacy of currently available vaccines for protection of commercial poultry, an extensive animal challenge experiment was performed. Cumulative clinicopathological and immunological investigations of virus-challenged chickens indicate that these isolates can potentially be transmitted between chicken and cause systemic infections, and the currently applied vaccines are unable to prevent clinical disease and virus shedding. Taken together, the data represent a comprehensive evaluation of the ability of Egyptian wild-bird-origin NDV strains to cause infection in commercial poultry and highlights the need for a continuous and large-scale surveillance as well as revised vaccine approaches. These integrated and multifaceted strategies would be crucial in any efforts to control and eradicate the disease globally.

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