Since the discovery of Newcastle disease virus (NDV) in 1926, nine genotypes of class I viruses and ten of class II have been identified, representing a diverse and continually evolving group of viruses. The emergence of new virulent genotypes from global epizootics and the year-to-year changes observed in the genomic sequence of NDV of low and high virulence implies that distinct genotypes of NDV are simultaneously evolving at different geographic locations across the globe. This vast genomic diversity may be favored by the large variety of avian species susceptible to NDV infection and by the availability of highly mobile wild bird reservoirs. The genomic diversity of NDV increases the possibility of diagnostic failures, resulting in unidentified infections. Constant epidemiological surveillance and pro-active characterization of circulating strains are needed to ensure that the immunological and PCR reagents are effective in identifying NDV circulating worldwide. For example, in the United States, the widely used real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR) matrix gene assay for the identification of NDV often fails to detect low virulence APMV-1 from waterfowl, while the RRT-PCR fusion gene assay, used to identify virulent isolates, often fails to detect certain virulent NDV genotypes. A new matrix-polymerase multiplex test that detects most of the viruses currently circulating worldwide and a modified fusion test for the identification of virulent pigeon viruses circulating in the U.S. and Europe have recently been developed. For newly isolated viruses with unknown sequences, recently developed random priming sequencing methods need to be incorporated into the diagnostic arsenal. In addition, the current system of classifying NDV into genotypes or lineages is inadequate. Here, we review the molecular epidemiology and recent diagnostic problems related to viral evolution of NDV and explain why a new system, based on objective criteria, is needed to categorize genotypes.
Published by Elsevier B.V.