Detection of a novel reassortant epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus serotype 6 in cattle in Trinidad, West Indies, containing nine RNA segments derived from exotic EHDV strains with an Australian origin

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) is a Culicoides-transmitted orbivirus that infects domestic and wild ruminants in many parts of the world. Of the eight proposed serotypes, only EHDV-1, 2 and 6 have been reported to be present in the Americas. Following the identification of a virulent EHDV-6 reasssortant virus in the USA in 2007 (EHDV-6 Indiana), with outer coat protein segments derived from an Australian strain of EHDV and all remaining segments derived from a locally circulating EHDV-2 strain, questions have remained about the origin of the Australian parent strain and how it may have arrived in the USA. When EHDV-6 was identified in asymptomatic cattle imported into the Caribbean island of Trinidad in 2013, full genome sequencing was carried out to further characterise the virus. The EHDV-6 Trinidad strain was a reassortant virus, with 8 of its 10 segments, being derived from the same exotic Australian EHDV-6 strain as the VP2 and VP5 present in the EHDV-6 Indiana strain from the USA. Analyses of the two remaining segments revealed that segment 8 showed the highest nucleotide identity (90.4%) with a USA New Jersey strain of EHDV-1, whereas segment 4 had the highest nucleotide identity (96.5%) with an Australian EHDV-2 strain. This data strongly suggests that the Trinidad EHDV-6 has an Australian origin, receiving its segment 4 from a reassortment event with an EHDV-2 also from Australia. This reassortant virus likely came to the Americas, where it received its segment 8 from a locally-circulating (as yet unknown) EHDV strain. This virus then may have gained entry into the USA, where it further reassorted with a known locally-circulating EHDV-2 strain, the resulting strain being EHDV-6 Indiana. This study therefore identifies, for the first time, the likely minor parent virus of the EHDV-6 currently circulating in the USA.

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