In recent years, acute severe outbreaks of infectious bursal disease (IBD) are frequently observed in commercial chicken populations of the North East Region (NER) of India, resulting in huge economic loses to poultry farmers. Field outbreaks of IBD in 30 different poultry farms in the NER were confirmed by clinicopathologic examination and reverse transcriptase PCR. A total of 10 isolates of IBD virus (IBDV) from these outbreaks were characterized by the genetic analysis of VP1 and the hypervariable region of the VP2 gene. Nucleotide sequences, deduced amino acid sequences, and phylogenetic analysis of both VP2 and VP1 genes revealed two genetically diverse strains of very virulent IBDV (vvIBDV) and one intermediate strain circulating in the NER. These isolates differ at nucleotide and amino acid levels from vvIBDV isolates of mainland India and are clustered in distinctly separate groups in the phylogenetic tree. Six of the isolates revealed a unique combination of vvIBDV amino acid signatures in the VP2 gene (A222, I256, I294), while bearing the non-vvIBDV amino acid signatures of the VP1 gene (146E, 147G, 242D), but they are clearly classified as vvIBDV in a phylogenetic analysis of both genes. Interestingly, one of the isolates showed 99% sequence homology with attenuated vaccine strains in the VP2 gene and clustered together. This study demonstrates the diversity of IBDVs in India and document for the first time the possible involvement of attenuated vaccine strains in the epidemiology of IBD in India.
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Vol. 62 • No. 2