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Identification of a novel Adélie penguin circovirus at Cape Crozier (Ross Island, Antarctica)

November 20, 2019

Understanding the causes of disease in Antarctic wildlife is crucial as many of these species are already threatened by environmental changes brought about by climate change. In recent years, Antarctic penguins have been showing signs of an unknown pathology: a feather disorder characterised by missing feathers resulting in exposed skin. During the 2018-19 austral summer breeding season at Cape Crozier colony on Ross Island, Antarctica, for the first time we observed an Adlie penguin chick missing down over most of its body. A guano sample was collected from the nest of the featherless chick and, using high throughput sequencing we identified a novel circovirus. Using abutting primers, we amplified the full genome, which we cloned, and Sanger sequenced to determine the complete genome of the circovirus. The Adlie penguin guano-associated circovirus genome shares <67% genome-wide nucleotide identity to other circoviruses, representing a new species of circovirus, therefore we named it penguin circovirus (PenCV). Using the same primer pair, we screened 25 previously collected cloacal swabs taken at Cape Crozier from known-age adult Adlie penguins during the 2014-15 season displaying no clinical signs of feather-loss disorder. Three of the 25 samples (12%) were positive for a PenCV, whose genome shared >99% pairwise identity to the one identified in 2018-19. This is the first report of a circovirus associated with a penguin species and could be a possible etiological agent of the feather-loss disorder in Antarctic penguins.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2019
Title Identification of a novel Adélie penguin circovirus at Cape Crozier (Ross Island, Antarctica)
DOI 10.3390/v11121088
Authors Virginia Morandini, Catherine M. Dugger, Grant Ballard, Megan Elrod, Annie Schmidt, Valeria Ruoppolo, Amélie Lescroël, Dennis Jongsomjit, Melanie Massaro, Jean Pennycook, Kara Schmidlin, Simona Kraberger, David G. Ainley, Arvind Varsani
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Viruses
Index ID 70228480
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle