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Avipoxvirus infections have been observed in an extensive range of wild, captive and domesticated avian hosts, yet little is known about the genome diversity and host-range specificity of the causative agent(s). Genome-sequence data are largely restricted to Fowlpox virus (FWPV) and Canarypox virus (CNPV), which have been sequenced completely, showing considerable divergence between them. It is therefore proving difficult, by empirical approaches, to identify pan-genus, avipoxvirus-specific oligonucleotide probes for PCR and sequencing to support phylogenetic studies. A previous preliminary study used the fpv167 locus, which encodes orthologues of vaccinia virus core protein P4b (A3). PCR per se did not discriminate between viruses, but restriction-enzyme or sequence analysis indicated that the avipoxviruses clustered either with FWPV or with CNPV. Here, further study of the P4b locus demonstrated a third cluster, from psittacine birds. A newly identified locus, flanking fpv140 (orthologue of vaccinia virus H3L), confirms the taxonomic structure. This locus is particularly useful in that viruses from the fowlpox-like and canarypox-like clusters can be discriminated by PCR on the basis of fragment size, whilst sequence comparison allows discrimination for the first time between Pigeonpox virus and Turkeypox virus. Except within the psittacines, virus and avian host taxonomies do not show tight correlation, with viruses from the same species located in very different clades. Nor are all the existing recognized avipoxvirus species, defined primarily by avian host species (such as CNPV and Sparrowpox virus), resolved within the present structure.

Original publication




Journal article


J gen virol

Publication Date





2191 - 2201


Amino Acid Sequence, Animals, Avipoxvirus, Canarypox virus, DNA, Viral, Fowlpox virus, Gene Order, Genes, Viral, Molecular Sequence Data, Phylogeny, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Polymorphism, Genetic, Sequence Analysis, DNA