To detect the presence of infectious bronchitis virus or avian coronavirus, a nested reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) method was developed with the aim of amplifying a fragment of 530 bases, comprising the gene coding S1 protein. In the first step, all samples were submitted to RNA extraction, RT-PCR, and nested PCR. Next, only the positive nested-PCR samples were propagated in specific-pathogen-free (SPF) embryonated chicken eggs for virus isolation. Positive samples were then sequenced and analyzed using a molecular phylogeny approach. Tracheal swab samples were collected from 23 different domestic chickens distributed in three regions of Brazil, in the period between 2003 and 2009. Also analyzed were six swab samples (tracheal and cloacal) from asymptomatic pigeons (Columba livia), caught in an urbanized region in southeastern Brazil. The study revealed two major phylogenetic groups: one clustered with the Massachusetts vaccine serotype and another joined with the D207 strain. Interestingly, samples grouped with the Connecticut and Arkansas serotypes were also found. Pigeon isolates clustered with the Massachusetts serotype showed significant similarity (close to 100%) to those obtained from chickens. Only one pigeon isolate was seen to be grouped with the Connecticut serotype, and no correlation was observed between sample grouping and region origin. Understanding the diversity of genotypes and eco-epizootiology of the disease in different environments is expected to be helpful for vaccine production aimed at the main circulating variants. In this respect, one could also expect benefits in the management of other bird species that may act as avian coronavirus reservoirs.
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Vol. 54 • No. 4