Avian astroviruses were detected by reverse transcriptase and polymerase chain reaction in intestinal contents collected from commercial chickens and turkeys from throughout the United States from 2003 through 2005. Astroviruses were detected in birds from both healthy and poorly performing flocks with or without enteric disease. Phylogenetic analysis was performed with sequence data from the polymerase (ORF-1b) genes of 41 turkey-origin astroviruses and 23 chicken-origin astroviruses. All currently available avian astrovirus sequence data and selected mammalian astrovirus sequence data were included in the analysis. Four groups of avian astroviruses were observed by phylogenetic analysis: turkey astrovirus type 1 (TAstV-1)-like viruses, turkey astrovirus type 2 (TAstV-2)-like viruses, both detected in turkeys; avian nephritis virus (ANV)-like viruses, detected in both chickens and turkeys; and a novel group of chicken-origin astroviruses (CAstV). Among these four groups, amino acid identity was between 50.1% and 73.8%, and was a maximum of 49.4% for all avian isolates when compared with the mammalian astroviruses. There were multiple phylogenetic subgroups within the TAstV-2, ANV, and CAstV groups based on 9% nucleotide sequence divergence. Phylogenetic analysis revealed no clear assortment by geographic region or isolation date. Furthermore, no correlation was observed between the detection of a particular astrovirus and the presence of enteric disease or poor performance. Based on these data, a revision of the present taxonomic classification for avian astroviruses within the genus Avastrovirus is warranted.
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Vol. 50 • No. 3