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Gallid Alphaherpesvirus 2 in the Egyptian Turkeys: Molecular Characterization and Establishment of a Universal System for Phylogenetic Classification

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • M. Bayoumi
  • M. El-Saied
  • B. Ahmed
  • M. El-Mahdy
  • H. Amer
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/07/2021
Issue number3
Number of pages9
Pages (from-to)156-164
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date21/05/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Introduction: Gallid alphaherpesvirus 2 (GaHV-2) is a highly contagious oncogenic virus that causes Marek's disease in chickens and occasionally in turkeys. Among 100 genes identified in GaHV-2 genome, the Meq gene appears to involve viral virulence, oncogenicity, and genetic diversity. Despite the use of Meq gene sequences in phylogenetic classification of GaHV-2 strains circulating in many countries worldwide, no integrated system exists yet. Methods: Turkeys from 2 commercial Egyptian farms were presented with signs of dullness, dehydration, and emaciation. Samples prepared from the internal organs were examined by histopathology and immunohistochemistry. Pools of the internal organs were analyzed by PCR for identification of GaHV-2, avian leucosis virus, and reticuloendotheliosis virus. The Meq gene of an Egyptian strain was sequenced and analyzed in comparison to 40 reference strains for generation of a universal system for phylogenetic classification of GaHV-2 strains. Results: Gross and histopathological examination revealed grayish-white soft masses in the internal organs characterized by diffuse infiltration of pleomorphic neoplastic cells. All lymphoma cells were identified as T-lymphocytes of CD3+ phenotype. Samples of both farms were only positive for GaHV-2 by PCR. Sequence analysis of the Meq gene has classified the current turkey strain as related to the Egyptian strains identified in chicken in 2012. A universal phylogenetic system for classification of GaHV-2 strains into 4 clusters was proposed. The vaccine strains were all grouped in cluster 2, and most of the classical American strains belonged to cluster 4. Cluster 1 was further divided into 3 subclusters (1.1-1.3). Conclusion: GaHV-2 was identified in turkeys for the first time in Africa and the Middle East. Sequence analysis of the Meq gene of the Egyptian strain along with a wide array of the global strains has enabled the construction of a novel phylogenetic classification system.