Retrospective analysis of infectious laryngotracheitis in backyard chicken flocks in California, 2007-2017, and determination of strain origin by partial ICP4 sequencing.
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) can cause severe losses in backyard flocks (BYFs) and commercial poultry. The prevalence of ILT, the circulating strains of ILT virus (ILTV) in BYFs, and the correlation of disease in BYF and commercial operations, is largely unknown. Of 8,656 BYF submissions, 88 cases of ILT were diagnosed at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System in 2007-2017. ILT diagnosis by year varied from 0.19% to 1.7% of the total BYF submissions, with the highest number of cases submitted from Amador and Riverside counties. Moderate tracheitis, conjunctivitis, and occluded tracheal lumen were commonly reported gross anatomic lesions. Microscopically, inflammation and edema were observed in the trachea, lung, and conjunctiva; 62 (70%) cases had intranuclear inclusion bodies (INIBs), with 10 cases containing INIBs only in conjunctival sections. To analyze the circulating ILTV strains and to differentiate between field and vaccine strains of ILTV, real-time PCR and sequencing of 996 base pairs of the infected-cell polypeptide 4 (ICP4) gene was performed on 15 ILTV-positive tracheal samples and compared to reference field and vaccine ILTV ICP4 sequences in GenBank. Fourteen strains were identical or closely related to the chicken embryo origin live virus vaccine strains, and one strain was closely related to a Chinese isolate, the USDA reference strain, and a vaccine strain. The presence of ILT in BYFs in counties with high commercial poultry concentrations demonstrates a risk for disease transmission and emphasizes the importance of continued surveillance and improved biosecurity in BYFs.