Polymerase chain reaction was used to amplify a portion of the avian poxvirus core 4b gene of infected free-ranging birds that presented at the Wildlife Center of Virginia during the 2003 and early 2004 years. The species of bird infected were a great blue heron (Ardea herodias), two American crows (Corvus brachyrhyncos), two American robins (Turdus migratorius), two mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), a blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), a northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), a house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), and a northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). Phylogenetic analysis was performed using the consensus sequences determined for each avian case in Virginia in combination with avian poxvirus core 4b gene sequence from isolates previously described in Europe and that of vaccinia virus. Alignment of DNA sequences identified areas of point mutations and, in the case of a single mourning dove, the incorporation of a triplet of nucleotides. Maximum-likelihood analysis grouped the 2003–2004 Virginia avian poxviruses into a clade distinct from those reported in European free-ranging birds, with the exception of a single case in a mourning dove that clustered within one European clade. The cladogram that resulted from our analysis of the European isolates is in agreement with those previously published. This study identified a distinct clade of avian poxvirus unique from four clades previously described and associated with epornitics in free-ranging birds, where the core 4b gene DNA sequence has been the basis of comparison.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4