In the present study, an IBV strain I0305/19 was isolated from a diseased commercial broiler flock in 2019 in China with high morbidity and mortality. The isolate I0305/19 was clustered together with viruses in sublineage D of GI-19 lineage on the basis of the complete S1 sequence analysis. Isolate I0305/19 and other GI-19 viruses isolated in China have the amino acid sequence MIA at positions 110-112 in the S protein. Further analysis based on the complete genomic sequence showed that the isolate emerged through at least four recombination events between GI-19 ck/CH/LJS/120848- and GI-13 4/91-like strains, in which the S gene was found to be similar to that of the GI-19 ck/CH/LJS/120848-like strain. Pathological assessment showed the isolate was a nephropathogenic IBV strain that caused high morbidity of 100 % and mortality of 80 % in 1-day-old specific-pathogen-free (SPF) chicks. The isolate I0305/19 exhibited broader tropisms in different tissues, including tracheas, lungs, bursa of Fabricius, spleen, liver, kidneys, proventriculus, small intestines, large intestines, cecum, and cecal tonsils. Furthermore, subpopulations of the virus were found in tissues of infected chickens; this finding is important in understanding how the virulent IBV strains can potentially replicate and evolve to cause disease. This information is also valuable for understanding the mechanisms of replication and evolution of other coronaviruses such as the newly emerged SARS-CoV-2.
Keywords: Broader tissue tropism; GI-19 lineage; High pathogenicity; Infectious bronchitis virus; Multiple recombination events.
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