Genomic Characterisation of a Novel Avipoxvirus Isolated from an Endangered Yellow-Eyed Penguin (Megadyptes antipodes)
journal contributionposted on 18.03.2021, 02:35 by Subir Sarker, Athukorala Vidanalage Ajani Priyadarshan Athukorala, TR Bowden, DB Boyle
Emerging viral diseases have become a significant concern due to their potential consequences for animal and environmental health. Over the past few decades, it has become clear that viruses emerging in wildlife may pose a major threat to vulnerable or endangered species. Diphtheritic stomatitis, likely to be caused by an avipoxvirus, has been recognised as a significant cause of mortality for the endangered yellow-eyed penguin (Megadyptes antipodes) in New Zealand. However, the avipoxvirus that infects yellow-eyed penguins has remained uncharacterised. Here, we report the complete genome of a novel avipoxvirus, penguinpox virus 2 (PEPV2), which was derived from a virus isolate obtained from a skin lesion of a yellow-eyed penguin. The PEPV2 genome is 349.8 kbp in length and contains 327 predicted genes; five of these genes were found to be unique, while a further two genes were absent compared to shearwaterpox virus 2 (SWPV2). In comparison with penguinpox virus (PEPV) isolated from an African penguin, there was a lack of conservation within the central region of the genome. Subsequent phylogenetic analyses of the PEPV2 genome positioned it within a distinct subclade comprising the recently isolated avipoxvirus genome sequences from shearwater, canary, and magpie bird species, and demonstrated a high degree of sequence similarity with SWPV2 (96.27%). This is the first reported genome sequence of PEPV2 from a yellow-eyed penguin and will help to track the evolution of avipoxvirus infections in this rare and endangered species.