Genetic and antigenic heterogeneity of infectious bronchitis virus in South America: implications for control programmes

<p>Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is a persistent sanitary problem for the South American poultry industry despite extensive vaccination. The IBV single-stranded RNA genome has high rates of mutation and recombination that generate a notorious virus variability. Since most IBV vaccines are type-specific, there is a need for constant surveillance of the circulating lineages and knowledge about their genetic and antigenic properties. Here we present an integrative analysis that provides the pattern of genetic variation of the South American IBV strains and information about their antigenic characteristics. The genetic analysis was performed using the S1 complete coding sequences of all available South American strains, including newly obtained Argentine and Uruguayan field samples. Our phylogenetic and phylodynamic analyses evidence that three main lineages (GI-1, GI-11 and GI-16) are extensively circulating in South American flocks. Strains of the GI-1 lineage (Massachusetts-type) were detected in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia. The GI-11 lineage is an exclusively South American lineage that emerged in the 1950s, and is the predominant lineage in Brazil and Uruguay at present. The GI-16 lineage emerged around 1979, and is currently circulating in most South American territories (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Peru). The virus cross-neutralization test performed here reveals very low antigenic relatedness between GI-11 and GI-16 lineages (i.e. they are different serotypes). The results of this study extend our knowledge about the present and past IBV variability in South America and provide relevant elements to improve the control programmes by considering the genetic and antigenic attributes of IBV.</p>