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Virus Res. 2003 Oct;96(1-2):3-14.

Molecular epidemiology of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) in Québec.

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Laboratoire d'hygiène vétérinaire et alimentaire, Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments, 3400 Casavant ouest, St-Hyacinthe, Québec, Canada J2S 8E3.


Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) strains identified in samples from 226 field cases originating from Québec herds and submitted over a 4-year period (March 1998-July 2002) were studied. Sequencing of PRRSV strains was performed on the ORF5 gene amplified product and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns for enzymes MluI, HincII and SacII were determined on these sequences. Twenty-four other PRRSV isolates including three vaccine strains were also included for comparison purposes and the total of 250 PRRSV strains were used in a phylogenetic analysis. Clinical and epidemiological data were collected through a questionnaire for each of the submitted field cases. About 75% of the cases were submitted during autumn and winter. Over 60% of the cases were submitted for reproductive problems, 33% for respiratory problems and 6% for increased PRRSV serological titers in the herd in absence of clinical signs. In 69% of the cases there was a PRRS vaccination program for the herd. However, only 26% of the animals from which samples were obtained had been vaccinated themselves. The genomic analysis of this large number of strains revealed a great variability of PRRSV ORF5 with 59% of amino acid positions being polymorphic. A total of 29 RFLP patterns were obtained. The main RFLP patterns obtained were 1-8-4 (28%), 1-4-4 (16%), 1-2-4 (9%) and 1-11-4 (9%). The global findings derived from the molecular analysis of 226 PRRSV strains suggest that PRRSV circulating in Québec represent a different sub-population of strains. Vaccine-like strains were identified in 10% of the cases. A phylogenetic tree enabled the identification of 44 groupings comprising two to 23 strains each. Of the 250 sequences analyzed, 183 (73%) could be included in one of these groupings. The data collected from the questionnaires were used to establish epidemiological links between strains within groupings. The main relationships between strains within a grouping were the introduction of infected animals (19%) and area spread (33%). In 40% of the cases from which an area spread was suspected, herds were located within 3 km from another. Aerosol transmission was suspected in several cases, more than half of which belonged to different owners. In 41 herds, more than one strain (2-8) were identified over a period varying from 3 months to 4 years. Data indicated that a PRRSV strain can persist in a herd up to 3.5 years displaying as little as 2% variation in ORF5 during this time. In 78% of the herds with multiple submissions genetically different strains were identified; often within 1 year of the original identification. These genetically distinct strains were often associated with a recrudescence of moderate to severe clinical signs. Coexistence on the same farm of different PRRSV strains was also observed.

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