Discovery of novel astrovirus genotype species in small ruminants.

Kauer, Ronja V.; Koch, Michel C.; Hierweger, Melanie M.; Werder, Simea; Boujon, Céline L.; Seuberlich, Torsten (2019). Discovery of novel astrovirus genotype species in small ruminants. PeerJ, 7, e7338. PeerJ, Ltd 10.7717/peerj.7338

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Astroviruses (AstV) are single-stranded, positive-sense RNA viruses, best known for causing diarrhea in humans and are also found in many other mammals; in those, the relevance in gastroenteritis remains unclear. Recently described neurotropic AstV showed associations with encephalitis in humans as well as in other mammals. In Switzerland, two different neurotropic AstV were identified in cattle, as well as one in a sheep. The high genetic similarity between the ovine and one of the bovine AstV strengthens the hypothesis of an interspecies transmission. In humans, AstV associated with encephalitis were found also in human stool samples, suggesting that in these patients the infection spreads from the gastrointestinal tract to the brain under certain conditions, such as immunosuppression. Whether a similar pathogenesis occurs in ruminants remains unknown. The aims of this study were (1) the investigation of the potential occurrence of neurotropic AstV in feces samples, (2) the discovery and analysis of so far unknown AstV in small ruminants and other ruminant species' fecal samples and (3) the examination of a potential interspecies transmission of AstV. To achieve these aims, RNA extraction out of 164 fecal samples from different ruminant species was performed and all samples were screened for known neurotropic AstV occurring in Switzerland, as well as for various AstV using RT-PCR. Positive tested samples were submitted to next generation sequencing. The generated sequences were compared to nucleotide- and amino acid databases, virus properties were identified, and phylogenetic analyses as well as recombination analysis were performed. The excretion of neurotropic AstV in small ruminants' feces could not be demonstrated, but this work suggests the first identification of AstV in goats as well as the discovery of multiple and highly diverse new genetic variants in small ruminants, which lead to a classification into novel genotype-species. Additionally, the prediction of multiple recombination events in four of five newly discovered full or almost full-length genome sequences suggests a plausible interspecies transmission. The findings point out the occurrence and fecal shedding of previously unknown AstV in sheep and goats and pave the way towards a better understanding of the diversity and transmission of AstV in small ruminants.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Experimental Clinical Research

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Kauer, Ronja Veronique; Hierweger, Melanie Michaela; Werder, Simea and Seuberlich, Torsten




PeerJ, Ltd




Torsten Seuberlich

Date Deposited:

24 Mar 2021 11:00

Last Modified:

28 Mar 2021 03:50

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Astrovirus Interspecies transmission Metagenomics RT-PCR-screening Small ruminants Virus discovery




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