The objective of this study was to investigate the presence of equine coronavirus (ECoV) in clinical samples submitted to a diagnostic laboratory in Ireland. A total of 424 clinical samples were examined from equids with enteric disease in 24 Irish counties between 2011 and 2015. A real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction was used to detect ECoV RNA. Nucleocapsid, spike and the region from the p4.7 to p12.7 genes of positive samples were sequenced, and sequence and phylogenetic analyses were conducted. Five samples (1.2%) collected in 2011 and 2013 tested positive for ECoV. Positive samples were collected from adult horses, Thoroughbred foals and a donkey foal. Sequence and/or phylogenetic analysis showed that nucleocapsid, spike and p12.7 genes were highly conserved and were closely related to ECoVs identified in other countries. In contrast, the region from p4.7 and the non-coding region following the p4.7 gene had deletions or insertions. The differences in the p4.7 region between the Irish ECoVs and other ECoVs indicated that the Irish viruses were distinguishable from those circulating in other countries. This is the first report of ECoV detected in both foals and adult horses in Ireland.
Keywords: Ireland; enteric disease; equine coronavirus.