An outbreak in pigeons caused by the subgenotype VI.2.1.2 of Newcastle disease virus in Brazil.
Newcastle disease virus (NDV) can infect over 250 bird species with variable pathogenicity; it can also infect humans in rare cases. The present study investigated an outbreak in feral pigeons in São Paulo city, Brazil, in 2019. Affected birds displayed neurological signs, and hemorrhages were observed in different tissues. Histopathology changes with infiltration of mononuclear inflammatory cells were also found in the brain, kidney, proventriculus, heart, and spleen. NDV staining was detected by immunohistochemistry. Twenty-seven out of thirty-four tested samples (swabs and tissues) were positive for Newcastle disease virus by RT-qPCR test, targeting the M gene. One isolate, obtained from a pool of positive swab samples, was characterized by the intracerebral pathogenicity index (ICPI) and the hemagglutination inhibition (HI) tests. This isolate had an ICPI of 0.99, confirming a virulent NDV strain. The monoclonal antibody 617/161, which recognizes a distinct epitope in pigeon NDV strains, inhibited the isolate with an HI titer of 512. A complete genome of NDV was obtained using next-generation sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis based on the complete CDS F gene grouped the detected isolate with other viruses from subgenotype VI.2.1.2, class II, including one previously reported in Southern Brazil in 2014. This study reports a comprehensive characterization of the subgenotype VI.2.1.2, which seems to have been circulating in Brazilian urban areas since 2014. Due to the zoonotic risk of NDV, virus surveillance in feral pigeons should also be systematically performed in urban areas.