Highly virulent Newcastle disease virus (NDV) causes Newcastle disease (ND), which is a threat to poultry production worldwide. Effective disease management requires approaches to accurately determine sources of infection, which involves tracking of closely related viruses. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has emerged as a research tool for thorough genetic characterization of infectious organisms. Previously formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues have been used to conduct retrospective epidemiological studies of related but genetically distinct viruses. However, this study extends the applicability of NGS for complete genome analysis of viruses from FFPE tissues to track the evolution of closely related viruses. Total RNA was obtained from FFPE spleens, lungs, brains, and small intestines of chickens in 11 poultry flocks during disease outbreaks in Pakistan. The RNA was randomly sequenced on an Illumina MiSeq instrument and the raw data were analyzed using a custom data analysis pipeline that includes de novo assembly. Genomes of virulent NDV were detected in 10/11 birds: eight nearly complete (> 95% coverage of concatenated coding sequence) and two partial genomes. Phylogeny of the NDV complete genome coding sequences was compared to current methods of analysis based on the full and partial fusion genes and determined that the approach provided a better phylogenetic resolution. Two distinct lineages of sub-genotype VIIi NDV were identified to be simultaneously circulating in Pakistani poultry. Non-targeted NGS of total RNA from FFPE tissues coupled with de novo assembly provided a reliable, safe, and affordable method to conduct epidemiological and evolutionary studies to facilitate management of ND in Pakistan.
Keywords: Chicken; Clinical; FFPE; NDV; NGS; Tissue.