Infectious laryngotracheitis is a dramatic disease of the upper respiratory tract in poultry caused by a herpesvirus. In this study we investigated the characteristics of western European field isolates of infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV) to gain more information on their diversity. The examined 104 isolates, collected from acute outbreaks during the last 35 years, originated from eight different countries: Switzerland (48), Germany (21), Sweden (14), the United Kingdom (9), Italy (5), Belgium (4), Austria (2), and Norway (1). Two vaccines, a chicken embryo origin product and a tissue culture origin product, were included in the survey. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed to amplify a 2.1-kb DNA fragment of ILTV using primers generated for the thymidine kinase (TK) gene. After digestion of the resulting PCR products by restriction endonuclease HaeIII, restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis was carried out. PCR amplicons of three field isolates and both vaccine strains were selected for sequencing. Here 98 field isolates showed the same cleavage pattern and were identical to both vaccine strains (clone 1). They differed from five Swiss isolates with identical cleavage pattern (clone 2) and one Swedish isolate (clone 3). The present study demonstrated that at least three clones of ILTV have been circulating in western Europe during the last 35 years. The 104 isolates analyzed showed a high genetic similarity regarding the TK gene, and a large majority of the field isolates (98/104) were genetically related to the vaccine strains.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2