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Domestic Sheep and Bighorn Sheep Carry Distinct Type of Herpesviruses

Domestic sheep and bighorn sheep carry distinct gammaherpesviruses belonging to the genus Macavirus
  • Infectious disease
  • Herpesvirus


The genus Macavirus of the subfamily Gammaherpesvirinae comprises two genetically distinct lineages of lymphotropic viruses. One of these lineages includes viruses that can cause malignant catarrhal fever (MCF), which are known as MCF viruses (MCFV). All MCFVs are genetically and antigenically related but carried by different hosts. In this study, we report the recognition of new MCFV carried by bighorn sheep. The virus was first identified in a bighorn sheep from Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Analysis of a conserved region of the viral DNA polymerase gene of the virus carried by this bighorn sheep showed 85.88% nucleotide identity to the MCFV carried by domestic sheep, ovine herpesvirus 2 (OvHV-2). Further investigation of bighorn samples obtained from animals in the US and Canada showed 98.87-100% identity to the DNA polymerase sequence of the first bighorn in the study. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that the MCFV carried by bighorn sheep is closely related but distinct from OvHV-2. Epidemiological and virulence features of the newly recognized MCFV are still unknown and warrant further investigation. Considering the current nomenclature for MCFVs, we suggest a tentative designation of ovine herpesvirus-3 (OvHV-3) for this newly identified bighorn sheep MCFV. 

Cunha, C.W., Slater, O.M, Macbeth, B., Duignan, P.J., Warren, A., Highland, M.A., Li, H. 2019. Domestic sheep and bighorn sheep carry distinct gammaherpesviruses belonging to the genus Macavirus. Virus research272, 197729.

infectious disease
Pádraig Duignan

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