Evolutionary insights into the fusion protein of Newcastle disease virus isolated from vaccinated chickens in 2016 in Egypt

Newcastle disease virus (NDV) infections are one of the most devastating causes of economic losses in the poultry industry and despite extensive vaccination, outbreaks are being reported around the globe especially from developing and tropical countries. Analysis of NDV field strains from vaccinated flocks would highlight essential areas of consideration not only to design effective immunization strategies but also to devise vaccines that provide sterile immunity. For this purpose, 91 NDV suspected outbreaks were investigated and screened for NDV genetic material. A total of 16 NDV-positive isolates were examined using biological, genetics and bioinformatics analysis to assess the epidemiological association and to identify motifs that are under vaccine-induced immune pressures. In line with the clinical outcomes, all isolates showed the 112RRQKR|F117 cleavage motif and phylogenetic analysis revealed grouping of isolates into the genotype VII, and specifically sub-genotype VIId. Further analysis of the putative fusion protein sequence showed a number of substitutions (n=10) in functionally important domains and based on these differences, the studied isolates could be categorized into four distinct groups (A-D). Importantly, two residues (N30 and K71) were conserved in the commercial live vaccine and Egyptian field strains that are present in class II, genotype II. Collectively, these data enhance our knowledge of the evolution of genotype VIId NDV under the vaccine-induced immune pressures. In addition, our findings suggest that the use of genotype II-type vaccines in Egypt may be implicated in the emergence of new variants rather than providing benefits against NDV infections.

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