Newcastle disease genotype VII prevalence in poultry and wild birds in Egypt

Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) genotype VII is a highly pathogenic Orthoavulavirus that has caused multiple outbreaks among poultry in Egypt since 2011. This study aimed to observe the prevalence and genetic diversity of NDV prevailing in domestic and wild birds in Egyptian governorates. A total of 37 oropharyngeal swabs from wild birds and 101 swabs from domestic bird flocks including chickens, ducks, turkeys, and pelicans, were collected from different geographic regions within 13 governorates during 2019–2020. Virus isolation and propagation via embryonated eggs revealed 91 swab samples produced allantoic fluid containing haemagglutination activity, suggestive of virus presence. The use of RT-PCR targeted to the F gene successfully detected NDV in 85 samples. The geographical prevalence of NDV was isolated in 12 governorates in domestic birds, migratory, and non-migratory wild birds. Following whole genome sequencing, we assembled six NDV genome sequences (70–99% of genome coverage), including five full F gene sequences. All NDV strains carried high virulence, with phylogenetic analysis revealing that the strains belonged to class II within genotype VII.1.1. The genetically similar yet geographically distinct virulent NDV isolates in poultry and a wild bird may allude to an external role contributing to the dissemination of NDV in poultry populations across Egypt. One such contribution may be the migratory behaviour of wild birds; however further investigation must be implemented to support the findings of this study. Additionally, continued genomic surveillance in both wild birds and poultry would be necessary for monitoring NDV dissemination and genetic diversification across Egypt, with the aim of controlling the disease and protecting poultry production.

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