Avian poxviruses (APV) are very large viruses spread worldwide in a variety of hosts. They are responsible for a disease usually referred to as pox, mainly characterized by nodular lesions on feather-free regions of the body. On May 2010, a young American flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) of the Lisbon Zoo (Portugal) developed a nodular lesion suggestive of poxvirus infection on its right foot. Avipoxvirus was isolated from the lesion and a fragment of the P4b-encoding gene was amplified by polymerase chain reaction. The nucleotide sequence of the amplicon was determined and analyzed. A close relationship (100% identity) was observed between the flamingo poxvirus and isolates from great bustard (Hungary 2005), house sparrow (Morocco 2009), MacQueen's bustard (Morocco 2011), and Houbara bustard (Morocco 2010 and 2011), suggesting interspecies transmission as a possible source of infection. To strengthen the investigation, the 5' and 3' ends of genes cnpv186 and cnpv 187, respectively, were also analyzed. The cnpv186-187 fragment exhibited 100% identity with MacQueen's bustard and Houbara bustard isolates, both from Morocco 2011. Phylogenetic analyses based in both fragments grouped the flamingo isolate consistently within clade B2 of canarypox. However, the phylogenetic relationships among the different representatives of avian poxviruses were more comprehensive in the tree based on the concatenated coding sequences of the cnpv186-187 fragment, rather than on the P4b-coding gene. The clearer displacement and distribution of the isolates regarding their host species in this last tree suggests the potential usefulness of this genomic region to refine avian poxvirus classification.
Keywords: Avian poxvirus; Phoenicopterus ruber; flamingo; phylogenetic analysis; poxvirus.