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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Four novel picornaviruses detected in Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) in Chile

Hayer, Juliette; Wille, Michelle; Font, Alejandro; Gonzalez-Aravena, Marcelo; Norder, Helene; Malmberg, Maja;


Members of the Picornaviridae family comprise a significant burden on the poultry industry, causing diseases such as gastroenteritis and hepatitis. However, with the advent of metagenomics, a number of picornaviruses have now been revealed in apparently healthy wild birds. In this study, we identified four novel viruses belonging to the family Picornaviridae in healthy Magellanic penguins, a near threatened species. All samples were subsequently screened by RT-PCR for these new viruses, and approximately 20% of the penguins were infected with at least one of these viruses. The viruses were distantly related to members of the genera Hepatovirus, Tremovirus, Gruhelivirus and Crahelvirus. Further, they had more than 60% amino acid divergence from other picornaviruses, and therefore likely constitute novel genera. Our results demonstrate the vast undersampling of wild birds for viruses, and we expect the discovery of numerous avian viruses that are related to hepatoviruses and tremoviruses in the future.


Sphenisciformes; Penguins; Picornaviridae; Viral metagenomics; Hepatovirus

Published in


2021, volume: 560, pages: 116-123

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Wille, Michelle
University of Sydney
Font, Alejandro
University of Melbourne
Gonzalez-Aravena, Marcelo
University of Melbourne
Norder, Helene
Sahlgrenska University Hospital
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics

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