Diversity and transmission of Aleutian mink disease virus in feral and farmed American mink and native mustelids.
Aleutian mink disease virus (AMDV), which causes Aleutian disease, is widely spread both in farmed mink and wild mustelids. However, only limited data are available on the role of wild animals in AMDV transmission and spread. Our aim was to shed light on AMDV transmission among wild mustelids and estimate the effect of intense farming practices on the virus circulation by studying AMDV prevalence and genetic diversity among wild mustelids in Poland. We compared AMDV seroprevalence and proportion of PCR-positive individuals in American mink, polecats, otters, stone martens, and pine martens and used the phylogenetic analysis of the NS1 region to study transmission. In addition, we used a metagenomic approach to sequence complete AMDV genomes from tissue samples. In eastern Poland, AMDV seroprevalence in wild mustelids varied from 22 per cent in otters to 62 per cent and 64 per cent in stone martens and feral mink, respectively. All studied antibody-positive mink were also PCR positive, whereas only 10, 15, and 18 per cent of antibody-positive polecats, pine martens, and stone martens, respectively, were PCR positive, suggesting lower virus persistence among these animal species as compared to feral mink. In phylogenetic analysis, most sequences from feral mink formed region-specific clusters that have most likely emerged through multiple introductions of AMDV to feral mink population over decades. However, virus spread between regions was also observed. Virus sequences derived from farmed and wild animals formed separate subclusters in the phylogenetic tree, and no signs of recent virus transmission between farmed and wild animals were observed despite the frequent inflow of farmed mink escapees to wild populations. These results provide new information about the role of different mustelid species in AMDV transmission and about virus circulation among the wild mustelids. In addition, we pinpoint gaps of knowledge, where more studies are needed to achieve a comprehensive picture of AMDV transmission.