Thanks to recent developments in molecular methods, many new species have been discovered within the genus Circovirus, which comprises viruses of veterinary relevance found in a broad range of hosts. In particular, several circoviruses are known to infect birds, often causing immunosuppression and feathering disorders. Nonetheless, nothing is known about their circulation in birds of prey. In this study, samples from 61 birds of prey representing ten different species, recovered by a wildlife rescue centre in Southern Italy, were taken at necropsy and analysed by PCR with pan-Circovirus primers. Only one sample, collected from a tawny owl (Strix aluco), tested positive. Its genome, sequenced by primer walking, displays the typical features of circoviruses. Based on demarcation criteria, the detected strain qualifies as a novel species, which was named “tawny owl-associated circovirus” (ToCV). Phylogenetically, ToCV clustered with mammalian rather than avian circoviruses, and its closeness to a rodent circovirus suggests that its host may have been a micromammal eaten by the tawny owl. On the other hand, its detection in the spleen fits with the tropism of other avian circoviruses. Little can be therefore said on its biology and pathogenicity, and further efforts are needed to better characterize its epidemiology.

Detection and Molecular Characterization of a Novel Species of Circovirus in a Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) in Southern Italy

Legnardi M.
;
Grassi L.;Franzo G.;Menandro M. L.;Tucciarone C. M.;Minichino A.;Cecchinato M.
2022

Abstract

Thanks to recent developments in molecular methods, many new species have been discovered within the genus Circovirus, which comprises viruses of veterinary relevance found in a broad range of hosts. In particular, several circoviruses are known to infect birds, often causing immunosuppression and feathering disorders. Nonetheless, nothing is known about their circulation in birds of prey. In this study, samples from 61 birds of prey representing ten different species, recovered by a wildlife rescue centre in Southern Italy, were taken at necropsy and analysed by PCR with pan-Circovirus primers. Only one sample, collected from a tawny owl (Strix aluco), tested positive. Its genome, sequenced by primer walking, displays the typical features of circoviruses. Based on demarcation criteria, the detected strain qualifies as a novel species, which was named “tawny owl-associated circovirus” (ToCV). Phylogenetically, ToCV clustered with mammalian rather than avian circoviruses, and its closeness to a rodent circovirus suggests that its host may have been a micromammal eaten by the tawny owl. On the other hand, its detection in the spleen fits with the tropism of other avian circoviruses. Little can be therefore said on its biology and pathogenicity, and further efforts are needed to better characterize its epidemiology.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11577/3411361
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