Prevalence of a novel bovine coronavirus strain with a recombinant hemagglutinin/esterase gene in dairy calves in China.
Bovine coronavirus (BCoV) is the causative agent of diarrhoea in newborn calves, winter dysentery in adult cattle and respiratory tract illnesses in cattle across the world. In this study, a total of 190 faecal samples from dairy calves with diarrhoea were collected from 14 farms in six Chinese provinces, and BCoV was detected in 18.95% (36/190) of the samples by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Full-length spike, hemagglutinin/esterase (HE), nucleocapsid and transmembrane genes were simultaneously cloned from 13 clinical samples (eight farms in four provinces), and most of the BCoV strains showed a unique evolutionary pattern based on the phylogenetic analysis of these genes. Interesting, 10 of the 13 strains were identified as HE recombinant strains, and these strains had experienced the same recombination event and carried the same recombination sites located between the esterase and lectin domain. They also shared an identical aa variant (F181V) in the R2-loop. Moreover, 9/10 strains displayed another identical aa variant (P, S158A) in the adjacent R1-loop of the HE gene, which differs from the other available BCoV HE sequences in the GenBank database. Our results showed that BCoV is widely circulating in dairy cattle in China, contributing to the diagnosis and control of dairy calves diarrhoea. Furthermore, a BCoV strain that carries a recombinant HE gene has spread in dairy calves in China. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first description of an HE recombination event occurring in BCoV; this is also the first description of the molecular prevalence of BCoV in China. Our findings will enhance current understanding about the genetic evolution of BCoV.