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Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is a highly contagious viral disease of chickens, caused by an aetiologic agent belonging to the genus Coronavirus. It mainly affects the upper and lower respiratory tracts, and frequently causes damage to the kidneys and the reproductive system (Cavanagh and Naqi 2003). Although vaccination is commonly adopted, outbreaks have occurred worldwide in commercial poultry farms, with significant economic consequences due to a decrease in productive performances (Cavanagh 2005, 2007). The virus is characterised by a great genetic and pathogenic variability. More than 50 different serotypes of IBV have been identified, and new variants continue to emerge (Bochkov and others 2006).
The genotype, designated as QX IBV, has spread from Asia, where it was described for the first time in 1996 in China (Wang and others 1998), to Europe (Beato and others 2005, Landman and others 2005, Valastro and others 2010), and recently to the southern part of the African continent (Zimbabwe) as well (Toffan and others 2011). This serotype has become the field strain predominant in the majority of poultry farms in many countries, and is associated with respiratory signs, nephritis and with the so-called ‘false layer syndrome’ (Worthington and others 2008, De Wit and others 2011). To date, no information on the QX-like strain circulation in the Middle East is available, nor has this virus …