Bovine coronavirus in Uruguay: genetic diversity, risk factors and transboundary introductions from neighboring countries


Bovine coronavirus (BCoV) is a recognized cause of severe neonatal calf diarrhea, with a negative impact on animal welfare, leading to economic losses to the livestock industry. Cattle production is one of the most important economic sectors in Uruguay. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency of BCoV infections and their genetic diversity in Uruguayan calves and to describe the evolutionary history of the virus in South America. The overall detection rate of BCoV in Uruguay was 7.8% (64/824): 7.7% (60/782) in dairy cattle and 9.5% (4/42) in beef cattle. The detection rate of BCoV in samples from deceased and live calves was 10.0% (6/60) and 7.6% (58/763), respectively. Interestingly, there was a lower frequency of BCoV detection in calves born to vaccinated dams (3.3%, 8/240) than in calves born to unvaccinated dams (12.2%, 32/263) (OR: 4.02, 95%CI: 1.81–8.90; p = 0.00026). The frequency of BCoV detection was higher in colder months (11.8%, 44/373) than in warmer months (1.5%, 3/206) (OR: 9.05, 95%CI: 2.77–29.53, p = 0.000013). Uruguayan strains grouped together in two different lineages: one with Argentinean strains and the other with Brazilian strains. Both BCoV lineages were estimated to have entered Uruguay in 2013: one of them from Brazil (95%HPD interval: 2011–2014) and the other from Argentina (95%HPD interval: 2010–2014). The lineages differed by four amino acid changes, and both were divergent from the Mebus reference strain. Surveillance should be maintained to detect possible emerging strains that can clearly diverge at the antigenic level from vaccine strains.

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