Spotlight on avian coronaviruses

Avian Pathol. 2020 Aug;49(4):313-316. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2020.1761010. Epub 2020 Jun 4.


Coronaviruses (CoVs) mainly cause enteric and/or respiratory signs. Mammalian CoVs including COVID-19 (now officially named SARS-CoV-2) belong to either the Alphacoronavirus or Betacoronavirus genera. In birds, the majority of the known CoVs belong to the Gammacoronavirus genus, whilst a small number are classified as Deltacoronaviruses. Gammacoronaviruses continue to be reported in an increasing number of avian species, generally by detection of viral RNA. Apart from infectious bronchitis virus in chickens, the only avian species in which CoV has been definitively associated with disease are the turkey, pheasant and guinea fowl. Whilst there is strong evidence for recombination between gammacoronaviruses of different avian species, and between betacoronaviruses in different mammals, evidence of recombination between coronaviruses of different genera is lacking. Furthermore, the recombination of an alpha or betacoronavirus with a gammacoronavirus is extremely unlikely. For recombination to happen, the two viruses would need to be present in the same cell of the same animal at the same time, a highly unlikely scenario as they cannot replicate in the same host!

Keywords: Avian coronaviruses; COVID-19; mammalian coronaviruses; poultry; wild birds.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bird Diseases / virology*
  • Birds
  • Chickens
  • Coronavirus / classification*
  • Coronavirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Galliformes
  • Gammacoronavirus / classification*
  • Humans
  • Turkeys