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Marek's disease (MD) is a lymphoproliferative disease important to the poultry industry worldwide; it is caused by Gallid alphaherpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2). The virulence of the GaHV-2 isolate has shifted over the years from mild to virulent, very virulent and very virulent +. Nowadays the disease is controlled by vaccination, but field strains of increased virulence are emerging worldwide. Economic losses due to MD are mostly associated with its acute form, characterised by visceral lymphomas. The present study aimed to molecularly classify a group of 13 GaHV-2 strains detected in vaccinated Italian commercial chicken flocks during acute MD outbreaks, and to scrutinise the ability of predicting GaHV-2 virulence, according to the meq gene sequence. The full-length meq genes were amplified and the obtained amino acid (aa) sequences were analysed, focusing mainly on the number of stretches of four proline molecules (PPPP) within the transactivation domain. Phylogenetic analysis was carried out with the Maximum Likelihood method using the obtained aa sequences and the sequences of Italian strains detected in backyard flocks and of selected strains retrieved from GenBank. All the analysed strains showed 100% sequence identity in the meq gene, which encodes a Meq protein of 339 aa. The Meq protein includes four PPPP motifs in the transactivation domain and an interruption of a PPPP motif due to a proline-to-serine substitution at position 218. These features are typically encountered in highly virulent isolates. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that the analysed strains belonged to a cluster that includes high-virulence GaHV-2 strains detected in Italian backyard flocks and a hypervirulent Polish strain. Our results support the hypothesis that the virulence of field isolates can be suggested by meq aa sequence analysis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Transboundary and emerging diseases
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Vaccines or candidate vaccines used to prevent MAREK DISEASE, an avian disease caused by a herpesvirus.
A species in the genus MAREK'S DISEASE-LIKE VIRUSES, in the family HERPESVIRIDAE, infecting chickens.
A species in the genus MAREK'S DISEASE-LIKE VIRUSES, in the family HERPESVIRIDAE, infecting turkeys.
A subfamily of HERPESVIRIDAE characterized by a short replication cycle. The genera include: SIMPLEXVIRUS; VARICELLOVIRUS; MAREK'S DISEASE-LIKE VIRUSES; and ILTOVIRUS.
A transmissible viral disease of birds caused by avian herpesvirus 2 (HERPESVIRUS 2, GALLID) and other MARDIVIRUS. There is lymphoid cell infiltration or lymphomatous tumor formation in the peripheral nerves and gonads, but may also involve visceral organs, skin, muscle, and the eye.
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