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Virology. 2002 Sep 30;301(2):206-11.

Generation of velogenic Newcastle disease viruses from a nonpathogenic waterfowl isolate by passaging in chickens.

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Department of Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Agriculture, Tottori University, Tottori, 680 8553, Japan.


A benign Newcastle disease virus (NDV) recently became highly virulent during replication in domestic chickens. It is still unclear whether NDVs circulating among wild waterfowl also have the potential to become highly pathogenic (velogenic) in chickens. To demonstrate experimentally the generation of velogenic NDV from a nonpathogenic waterfowl isolate, we passaged an avirulent goose isolate in chickens. After nine consecutive passages by air-sac inoculation, followed by five passages in chick brain, the virus became highly virulent in chickens, producing a 100% mortality rate, and demonstrating typical velogenic properties in pathogenicity tests. Sequence analysis at the fusion protein cleavage site showed that the original isolate contained the typical avirulent type sequence, E-R-Q-E-R/L, which progressed incrementally to a typical virulent type, K-R-Q-K-R/F, during repeated passage in chickens. These results demonstrate that avirulent viruses, maintained in wild waterfowl in nature and bearing the consensus avirulent type sequence, have the potential to become velogenic after transmission to and circulation in chicken populations. The results also suggest that chickens provide a mechanism for the selection of virulent viruses from an avirulent background.

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