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Open Access Coronaviruses from pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) are genetically closely related to coronaviruses of domestic fowl (infectious bronchitis virus) and turkeys

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Reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCRs) were used to examine RNA extracted from mouth/nasal swabs from pheasants exhibiting signs of respiratory disease. The oligonucleotides used were based on sequences of infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), the coronavirus of domestic fowl. A RT-PCR for the highly conserved region II of the 3′ untranslated region of the IBV genome detected a coronavirus in swabs from 18/21 estates. Sequence identity with the corresponding region of IBVs and coronaviruses from turkeys was > 95%. A RT-PCR for part of the S1 region of the spike protein gene was positive with 13/21 of the samples. Sequence analysis of the RT-PCR products derived from nine of the pheasant viruses revealed that some of the viruses differed from each other by approximately 24%, similar to the degree of difference exhibited by different serotypes of IBV. Further analysis of the genome of one of the viruses revealed that it contained genes 3 and 5 that are typical of IBV but absent in both the transmissible gastroenteritis virus and murine hepatitis virus groups of mammalian coronaviruses. The nucleotide sequences of genes 3 and 5 of the pheasant virus had a similar degree of identity (approximately 90%) with those of coronaviruses from turkeys and chickens, as is observed when different serotypes of IBV are compared. This work: (a) confirms that coronaviruses are present in pheasants (indeed, commonly present in pheasants with respiratory disease); (b) demonstrates that their genomes are IBV-like in their organization; and (c) shows that there is sequence heterogeneity within the group of pheasant coronaviruses, especially within the spike protein gene. Furthermore, the gene sequences of the pheasant viruses differed from those of IBV to similar extents as the sequence of one serotype of IBV differs from another. On the genetic evidence to date, there is a remarkably high degree of genetic similarity between the coronaviruses of chickens, turkeys and pheasants.

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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Animal Health, Compton Laboratory, Compton, Newbury, RG20 7NN, UK; [email protected] 2: Institute for Animal Health, Compton Laboratory, Compton, Newbury, RG20 7NN, UK 3: Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Itchen Abbas, Winchester, UK 4: Avian Virology, Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Weybridge, Addlestone, Surrey, UK

Publication date: February 1, 2002

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