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  • 1 Department of Avian Disease Research and Diagnostic, Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Karaj, Iran
  • 2 Department of Viral Vaccine Quality Control, Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Karaj, Iran
  • 3 Department of Research and Development, Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Karaj, Iran
  • 4 Department of Poultry Vaccine Research and Production, Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, Agricultural Research Education and Extension Organization (AREEO), Karaj, Iran
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Abstract

Despite the use of wide-scale vaccination programmes against the H9N2 virus, enzootic outbreaks of H9N2 avian influenza (AI) have often occurred and caused serious nationwide economic losses, particularly in broiler chickens. In this study, the haemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes of nine recent H9N2s and a common vaccine strain were fully sequenced and compared with other representative Iranian viruses. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that all Iranian viruses were grouped into the G1 sub-lineage with different clusters in which recent isolates (2014–2017) formed a distinct cluster compared to the vaccine group (1998–2004). All Iranian H9N2s exhibited low pathogenicity AI connecting peptide feature with an R/KSSR motif. Amino acid 226, located in the 220 loop of the receptor binding site, was leucine among the recent Iranian viruses, a characteristic of human influenza viruses. With an overall gradual increase in the genetic diversity of H9N2s, Bayesian skyline plots of Iranian HA and NA genes depicted a fluctuation and a relative stable situation, respectively. It is recommended to apply constant surveillance to assess any increase in viral human adaptation and evolutionary changes in circulating field H9N2s. Moreover, antigenic characterisation of the prevailing H9N2 viruses seems to be necessary for evaluating the possible antigenic drift from the vaccine strain.

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