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Comparative Molecular and Epidemiological Analyses of Israeli Bluetongue Viruses Serotype 1 and 9 Causing Outbreaks in 2018–2020

Israel is endemic to bluetongue virus (BTV). The introduction of novel-for-the-region arboviruses have been recorded annually in recent years. In 2019, previously non-reported in-the-country BTV-1 and BTV-9 were identified. BTV-1 caused a single-season outbreak, probably linked to mild infection in ruminants. BTV-9 was retrospectively detected in the field samples collected from August 2018 until 2020. It was the dominant serotype in 2019, out of the six serotypes recorded during that calendar year. Clinical manifestation of the disease in cases diagnosed with BTV-9 were compared to those in cases determined to have BTV-1. BLAST and phylogenetic analyses of BTV-1 showed that the nucleotide (nt) sequence coding the viral outer protein 1 (VP2) determining the serotype is closely related to BTV-1 isolated in Sudan in 1987, and the coding sequence of the outer protein 2 (VP5) is related to South African BTV-1 from 2017. A probable common ancestor with Libyan BTV-9 strains isolated in 2008 was seen in an analysis of Israeli BTV-9 nt sequences. Notably, the outbreak-caused BTV-9 strains collected in 2019 exhibited a distinct level of genetic reassortment with local Israeli strains compared to BTV-9 strains registered in 2018 and 2020.



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