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Gerardi, V., M. A. Rohaim, R. E. F. Naggar, M. O. Atasoy, and M. Munir, "Deep Structural Analysis of Myriads of Omicron Sub-Variants Revealed Hotspot for Vaccine Escape Immunity.", Vaccines, vol. 11, issue 3, 2023. Abstract

The emergence of the Omicron variant has reinforced the importance of continued SARS-CoV-2 evolution and its possible impact on vaccine effectiveness. Specifically, mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) are critical to comprehend the flexibility and dynamicity of the viral interaction with the human agniotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) receptor. To this end, we have applied a string of deep structural and genetic analysis tools to map the substitution patterns in the S protein of major Omicron sub-variants (n = 51) with a primary focus on the RBD mutations. This head-to-head comparison of Omicron sub-variants revealed multiple simultaneous mutations that are attributed to antibody escape, and increased affinity and binding to hACE2. Our deep mapping of the substitution matrix indicated a high level of diversity at the N-terminal and RBD domains compared with other regions of the S protein, highlighting the importance of these two domains in a matched vaccination approach. Structural mapping identified highly variable mutations in the up confirmation of the S protein and at sites that critically define the function of the S protein in the virus pathobiology. These substitutional trends offer support in tracking mutations along the evolutionary trajectories of SAR-CoV-2. Collectively, the findings highlight critical areas of mutations across the major Omicron sub-variants and propose several hotspots in the S proteins of SARS-CoV-2 sub-variants to train the future design and development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vilela, J., M. A. Rohaim, and M. Munir, "Avian Orthoavulavirus Type-1 as Vaccine Vector against Respiratory Viral Pathogens in Animal and Human.", Vaccines, vol. 10, issue 2, 2022. Abstract

Avian orthoavulaviruses type-1 (AOaV-1) have recently transitioned from animal vaccine vector to a bona fide vaccine delivery vehicle in human. Owing to induction of robust innate and adaptive immune responses in mucus membranes in both birds and mammals, AOaVs offer an attractive vaccine against respiratory pathogens. The unique features of AOaVs include over 50 years of safety profile, stable expression of foreign genes, high infectivity rates in avian and mammalian hosts, broad host spectrum, limited possibility of recombination and lack of pre-existing immunity in humans. Additionally, AOaVs vectors allow the production of economical and high quantities of vaccine antigen in chicken embryonated eggs and several GMP-grade mammalian cell lines. In this review, we describe the biology of AOaVs and define protocols to manipulate AOaVs genomes in effectively designing vaccine vectors. We highlighted the potential and established portfolio of AOaV-based vaccines for multiple respiratory and non-respiratory viruses of veterinary and medical importance. We comment on the limitations of AOaV-based vaccines and propose mitigations strategies. The exploitation of AOaVs vectors is expanding at an exciting pace; thus, we have limited the scope to their use as vaccines against viral pathogens in both animals and humans.

Rohaim, M. A., M. Q. Al-Natour, R. F El Naggar, M. A. Abdelsabour, Y. M. Madbouly, K. A. Ahmed, and M. Munir, "Evolutionary Trajectories of and Vaccines Compatibilities in Poultry.", Vaccines, vol. 10, issue 11, 2022. Abstract

Newcastle disease virus (NDV) causes one of the highly infectious avian diseases in poultry leading to genuine financial misfortunes around the world. Recently, there has been an increasing trend in the number of ND-associated outbreaks in commercial Jordanian poultry flocks indicating a possible complex evolutionary dynamic of NDV infections in the country. To underpin the dynamics of circulating NDV strains and to assess the vaccine-escape potential, a total of 130 samples were collected from different poultry flocks in six Jordanian Governorates during 2019-2021. Twenty positive isolates, based on real-time reverse transcriptase PCR, were used for further genetic characterization and evolutionary analysis. Our results showed that there is a high evolutionary distance between the newly identified NDV strains (genotype VII.1.1) in this study and the commercially used vaccines (genotypes I and II), suggesting that circulating NDV field strains are under constant evolutionary pressure. These mutations may significantly affect flocks that have received vaccinations as well as flocks with insufficient immunity in terms of viral immunity and disease dynamics. To assess this further, we investigated the efficacy of the heterologous inactivated LaSota or homologous genotype VII.1.1 vaccine for their protection against virulent NDV in chicken. Vaccine-induced immunity was evaluated based on the serology, and protection efficacy was assessed based on clinical signs, survival rates, histopathology, and viral shedding. Chickens vaccinated with the inactivated genotype VII.1.1 based vaccine showed 100% protection with a significant reduction in virus shedding, and ameliorated histopathology lesions compared to LaSota vaccinated chicks that showed 60% protection. These results revealed that the usage of NDV inactivated vaccine from the circulating field strains can successfully ameliorate the clinical outcome and virus pathobiology in vaccinated chicks and will serve as an effective vaccine against the threat posed by commonly circulating NDV strains in the poultry industry.

Xiao, S., S. Wang, D. Jiang, X. Cheng, X. Zhu, F. Lin, B. Yu, H. Dong, X. Wang, M. Munir, et al., "VP2 virus-like particles elicit protective immunity against duckling short beak and dwarfism syndrome in ducks.", Transboundary and emerging diseases, vol. 69, issue 2, pp. 570-578, 2022. Abstract

Duckling short beak and dwarfism syndrome virus (SBDSV), an emerging goose parvovirus, has caused short beak and dwarfism syndrome (SBDS) in Chinese duck flocks since 2015. Presently, there is no commercial vaccine against SBDS. In the present study, a virus-like particle (VLP)-based candidate vaccine was developed against this disease. A baculovirus expression system was used to express the SBDSV VP2 protein in Sf9 cells. Immunofluorescence assay, sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and Western blotting were used to confirm protein expression. Furthermore, transmission electron microscopy was used to observe the formation of VLPs. VLPs were formulated into an oil-adjuvanted maternal vaccine to evaluate humoral responses in breeding ducks via latex particle agglutination inhibition assay (LPAI) and microneutralization assay. The offspring were challenged with SBDSV to test the protective efficacy. A single dose of SBDSV was able to induce the high level of LPAI antibodies in ducks, with LPAI and neutralization peak titres of 4.9 ± 1.20 log2 and 7.1 ± 1.20 log2, respectively, at 4 weeks post-vaccination (wpv). The average LPAI titre of yolk antibodies in duck eggs receiving 2 doses (first and boost doses) of the vaccine was 5.3 ± 1.09 log2 at 4 weeks post-boost. The protective efficacy of the maternal vaccine was 87.5%-100%. These results indicate that SBDSV VLPs can be a promising vaccine candidate for controlling SBDS.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F El Naggar, Y. Madbouly, M. A. Abdelsabour, K. A. Ahmed, and M. Munir, "Comparative infectivity and transmissibility studies of wild-bird and chicken-origin highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses H5N8 in chickens.", Comparative immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases, vol. 74, pp. 101594, 2021. Abstract

Despite the recent advances in avian influenza viruses surveillance and genomic data, fundamental questions concerning the ecology and evolution of these viruses remain elusive. In Egypt, H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses (HPAIVs) are co-circulating simultaneously with HPAIVs of subtypes H5N1 and low-pathogenic avian influenza viruses (LPAIVs) of subtype H9N2 in both commercial and backyard poultry. In order to isolate AIVs from wild birds and to assess their potential in causing infection in commercial poultry, a total of thirty-four cloacal swab samples were collected from apparently healthy migratory wild birds (Anas acuta, Anas crecca, Rallus aquaticus, and Bubulcus ibis) from four Egyptian Governorates (Giza, Menoufia, Gharbia, and Dakahlia). Based on matrix (M) gene-targeting real-time reverse transcriptase PCR and subsequent genetic characterization, our results revealed two positive isolates (2/34) for H5N8 whereas no H5N1 and H9N2 subtypes were detected. Genetic characterization of the full-length haemagglutinin (HA) genes revealed the clustering of two reported isolates within genotype 5 of clade The potential of a wild bird-origin H5N8 virus isolated from a cattle egret for its transmission capability within and between chickens was investigated in compare to chicken origin H5N8 AIV. Chickens inoculated with cattle egret isolate showed varying clinical signs and detection of virus shedding. In contrast, the contact chickens showed less levels of virus secretion indicating efficient virus inter/intra-species transmission. These results demonstrated the possibility for spreading of wild bird origin H5N8 viruses between chicken. In conclusion, our study highlights the need for continuous and frequent monitoring of the genetic diversity of H5N8 AIVs in wild birds as well as commercial poultry sectors for better understanding and determining the genetic nature of these viruses, which is fundamental to predict any future threat through virus reassortment with the potential to threaten human and animal health. Likewise, an assessment of coverage and efficacy of different vaccines and or vaccination regimes in the field conditions should be reconsidered along with strict biosecurity measures.

Abdel-Sabour, M. A., M. A. Rohaim, O. J. A. Salman, Samah E Abodalal, F. F. Mohammad, M. S. Madkour, N. A. Abdel-Wanis, and M. Munir, "Immunogenicity and efficacy of a bivalent vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus.", Comparative immunology, microbiology and infectious diseases, vol. 77, pp. 101670, 2021. Abstract

Infectious bronchitis (IB) is a highly contagious viral disease and is responsible for considerable economic losses in the poultry industry, worldwide. To mitigate the IB-associated losses, multiple vaccines are being applied in the sector with variable successes and thus necessitating the development of a potent vaccine to protect against the IB in the poultry. In the present study, we investigated a bivalent live attenuated vaccine consisting of IB virus (IBV) strain H120 (GI-1 lineage) and D274 (GI-12 lineage) to evaluate its protection against heterologous variant of IBV (GI-23 lineage) in chicken. Protection efficacy was evaluated based on the serology, clinical signs, survival rates, tracheal and kidney histopathology and the viral shedding. Results demonstrated that administering live H120 and D274 (named here Classivar®) vaccine in one day-old and 14 days-old provided 100 % protection. We observed a significant increase in the mean antibody titers, reduced virus shedding, and ameliorated histopathology lesions compared to routinely used vaccination regimes. These results revealed that usage of different IBV vaccines combination can successfully ameliorate the clinical outcome and pathology in vaccinated chicks especially after booster vaccination regime using Classivar®. In conclusions, our data indicate that Classivar® vaccine is safe in chicks and may serve as an effective vaccine against the threat posed by commonly circulating IBV strains in the poultry industry.

Park, J. - G., F. S. Oladunni, M. A. Rohaim, J. Whittingham-Dowd, J. Tollitt, M. D. J. Hodges, N. Fathallah, M. B. Assas, W. Alhazmi, A. Almilaibary, et al., "Immunogenicity and protective efficacy of an intranasal live-attenuated vaccine against SARS-CoV-2.", iScience, vol. 24, issue 9, pp. 102941, 2021. Abstract

Global deployment of an effective and safe vaccine is necessary to curtail the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Here, we evaluated a Newcastle disease virus (NDV)-based vectored-vaccine in mice and hamsters for its immunogenicity, safety, and protective efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. Intranasal administration of recombinant (r)NDV-S vaccine expressing spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 to mice induced high levels of SARS-CoV-2-specific neutralizing immunoglobulin A (IgA) and IgG2a antibodies and T-cell-mediated immunity. Hamsters immunized with two doses of vaccine showed complete protection from lung infection, inflammation, and pathological lesions following SARS-CoV-2 challenge. Importantly, administration of two doses of intranasal rNDV-S vaccine significantly reduced the SARS-CoV-2 shedding in nasal turbinate and lungs in hamsters. Collectively, intranasal vaccination has the potential to control infection at the site of inoculation, which should prevent both clinical disease and virus transmission to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rohaim, M. A., R. E. F. Naggar, M. A. Abdelsabour, B. A. Ahmed, M. M. Hamoud, K. A. Ahmed, O. K. Zahran, and M. Munir, "Insights into the Genetic Evolution of Duck Hepatitis A Virus in Egypt.", Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, vol. 11, issue 9, 2021. Abstract

Duck hepatitis virus (DHV) is one of the commercially important diseases of ducklings worldwide. It is an acute and highly infectious disease of ducklings caused by three different serotypes (1-3) of duck hepatitis A virus (DHAV), and serotype 1 is the most common in poultry. To date, little is known about the prevalence and genetic characterisation of DHAV-1 in Egypt. In the current study, isolation and complete genomic analyses of DHAVs circulating in commercial duck farms in different Egyptian governorates were conducted. A total of eighteen samples were collected from six Egyptian governorates of 3-11 days old ducklings (Pekin and Mullard) with a history of nervous signs and high mortality rates. Five out of eighteen (5/18) samples were screened positive for the DHAV-1 based on the VP1 gene. These samples were individually used for virus isolation in embryonated duck embryos (EDE), followed by complete genome sequencing. Phylogenomic analyses showed that DHAV serotype I; genotype I were diversified into four different groups (1-4). Most of the recent circulating Egyptian DHAV strains are clustered within group 4, while isolates characterised within this study were clustered within group 1. Recombination analyses revealed that the emergence of a new recombinant virus-DHAV-1 strain Egypt-10/2019-through recombination. Likewise, the selective pressure analyses showed the existence, inside or near areas of the viral attachment or related functions, of positive scores highlighting the importance of natural selection and viral evolution mechanism at different protein domains. The findings of this study provide updated information on the epidemiological and genetic features of DHAV-1 strains and underscore the importance of DHAV surveillance as well as re-evaluation for currently used vaccines.

Rohaim, M. A., M. Q. Al-Natour, M. A. Abdelsabour, R. F El Naggar, Y. M. Madbouly, K. A. Ahmed, and M. Munir, "Transgenic Chicks Expressing Interferon-Inducible Transmembrane Protein 1 (IFITM1) Restrict Highly Pathogenic H5N1 Influenza Viruses.", International journal of molecular sciences, vol. 22, issue 16, 2021. Abstract

Mammalian cells utilize a wide spectrum of pathways to antagonize the viral replication. These pathways are typically regulated by antiviral proteins and can be constitutively expressed but also exacerbated by interferon induction. A myriad of interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs) have been identified in mounting broad-spectrum antiviral responses. Members of the interferon-induced transmembrane (IFITM) family of proteins are unique among these ISGs due to their ability to prevent virus entry through the lipid bilayer into the cell. In the current study, we generated transgenic chickens that constitutively and stably expressed chicken IFITM1 (chIFITM1) using the avian sarcoma-leukosis virus (RCAS)-based gene transfer system. The challenged transgenic chicks with clinical dose 10 egg infective dose 50 (EID) of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) subtype H5N1 (clade showed 100% protection and significant infection tolerance. Although challenged transgenic chicks displayed 60% protection against challenge with the sub-lethal dose (EID 10), the transgenic chicks showed delayed clinical symptoms, reduced virus shedding, and reduced histopathologic alterations compared to non-transgenic challenged control chickens. These finding indicate that the sterile defense against H5N1 HPAIV offered by the stable expression of chIFITM1 is inadequate; however, the clinical outcome can be substantially ameliorated. In conclusion, chIFITM proteins can inhibit influenza virus replication that can infect various host species and could be a crucial barrier against zoonotic infections.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F El Naggar, M. A. Abdelsabour, M. H. A. Mohamed, I. M. El-Sabagh, and M. Munir, "Evolutionary Analysis of Infectious Bronchitis Virus Reveals Marked Genetic Diversity and Recombination Events.", Genes, vol. 11, issue 6, pp. 605, 2020. Abstractgenes-11-00605-v2.pdf

In the last 5 years, frequent outbreaks of infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) are observed in both broiler and layer chicken flocks in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in spite of extensive usage of vaccines. The IBV is a widespread avian coronavirus affecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated chicken flocks and is attributed to significant economic losses, around the globe. In the present study, 58 ( = 58) samples were collected from four different commercial poultry flocks from 8 KSA districts during 2019. A total of nine positive isolates (9/58; 15.5%), based on real-time reverse transcriptase PCR targeting nucleocapsid (N) gene, were used for further genetic characterization and evolutionary analysis. Genetic characterization of the partial spike (S1) gene revealed the clustering of the reported isolates into three different genotypes, whereas four additional isolates were grouped within 4/91 genotype, two isolates within IS/885 genotype, one isolate was closely related to IS/1494/06, and two isolates were grouped within classic serotype (vaccine-like strains). Phylodynamic revealed clustering of four isolated viruses within GI-13 lineage, three isolates within GI-23 lineage, and two isolates within GI-1 lineage. Results indicate that there are high evolutionary distances between the newly identified IBV strains in this study and the commercially used vaccines (GI-1), suggesting that IBV strains circulating in the KSA are under constant evolutionary pressures. Selective pressure biostatistics analyses consistently demonstrate the presence of a higher positive score which highlights the role of natural selection, a mechanism of virus evolution on sites located on the protein surface, within or nearby domains involved in viral attachment or related functions. Recombination analysis revealed emergence of two isolates through recombination events resulting in new recombinant viruses. Taken together, these finding demonstrate the genetic and evolutionary insights into the currently circulating IBV genotypes in KSA, which could help to better understand the origin, spread, and evolution of infectious bronchitis viruses, and to ascertain the importance of disease monitoring as well as re-evaluation for the currently used vaccines and vaccination programs.

Naggar, R. E. F., M. A. Rohaim, and M. Munir, "Potential reverse spillover of infectious bursal disease virus at the interface of commercial poultry and wild birds.", Virus genes, vol. 56, issue 6, pp. 705-711, 2020. Abstract

Recently, multiple spillover events between domesticated poultry and wild birds have been reported for several avian viruses. This phenomenon highlights the importance of the livestock-wildlife interface in the possible emergence of novel viruses. The aim of the current study was to investigate the potential spillover and epidemiological links of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) between wild birds and domestic poultry. To this end, twenty-eight cloacal swabs were collected from four species of free-living Egyptian wild birds (i.e. mallard duck, bean goose, white-fronted goose and black-billed magpie). Genetic and phylogenetic analysis of three positive isolates revealed that the IBDV/USC-1/2019 strain clustered with previously reported very virulent IBDV (vvIBDV) Egyptian isolates. Interestingly, two other wild bird-origin isolates (i.e. IBDV/USC-2/2019 and IBDV/USC-3/2019) grouped with a vaccine strain that is being used in commercial poultry. In conclusion, our results revealed the molecular detection of vaccine and vvIBDV-like strains in Egyptian wild birds and highlighted the potential role of wild birds in IBDV epidemiology in disease-endemic regions.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F El Naggar, E. Clayton, and M. Munir, "Structural and functional insights into non-structural proteins of coronaviruses.", Microbial pathogenesis, vol. 150, pp. 104641, 2020. Abstract

Coronaviruses (CoVs) are causing a number of human and animal diseases because of their zoonotic nature such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). These viruses can infect respiratory, gastrointestinal, hepatic and central nervous systems of human, livestock, birds, bat, mouse, and many wild animals. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a newly emerging respiratory virus and is causing CoVID-19 with high morbidity and considerable mortality. All CoVs belong to the order Nidovirales, family Coronaviridae, are enveloped positive-sense RNA viruses, characterised by club-like spikes on their surfaces and large RNA genome with a distinctive replication strategy. Coronavirus have the largest RNA genomes (~26-32 kilobases) and their expansion was likely enabled by acquiring enzyme functions that counter the commonly high error frequency of viral RNA polymerases. Non-structural proteins (nsp) 7-16 are cleaved from two large replicase polyproteins and guide the replication and processing of coronavirus RNA. Coronavirus replicase has more or less universal activities, such as RNA polymerase (nsp 12) and helicase (nsp 13), as well as a variety of unusual or even special mRNA capping (nsp 14, nsp 16) and fidelity regulation (nsp 14) domains. Besides that, several smaller subunits (nsp 7- nsp 10) serve as essential cofactors for these enzymes and contribute to the emerging "nsp interactome." In spite of the significant progress in studying coronaviruses structural and functional properties, there is an urgent need to understand the coronaviruses evolutionary success that will be helpful to develop enhanced control strategies. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the structure, function, and interactions of coronaviruses RNA synthesizing machinery and their replication strategies.

Aziz-Ul-Rahman, M. A. Rohaim, R. F El Naggar, G. Mustafa, U. Chaudhry, and M. Z. Shabbir, "Comparative clinico-pathological assessment of velogenic (sub-genotype VIIi) and mesogenic (sub-genotype VIm) 1 in chickens and pigeons.", Avian pathology : journal of the W.V.P.A, vol. 48, issue 6, pp. 610-621, 2019. Abstract

Newcastle disease (ND), caused by virulent 1 (AAvV 1), affects a wide range of avian species worldwide. Recently, several AAvVs of diverse genotypes have emerged with varying genomic and residue substitutions, and subsequent clinical impact on susceptible avian species. We assessed the clinico-pathological influence of two different AAvV 1 pathotypes [wild bird originated-velogenic strain (sub-genotype VIIi, MF437287) and feral pigeon originated-mesogenic strain (sub-genotype VIm, KU885949)] in commercial broiler chickens and pigeons. The velogenic strain caused 100% mortality in both avian species while the mesogenic strain caused 0% and 30% mortality in chickens and pigeons, respectively. Both strains showed tissue tropism for multiple tissues including visceral organs; however, minor variances were observed according to host and pathotype. The observed gross and microscopic lesions were typical of AAvV 1 infection. Utilizing oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs, a comparable pattern of viral shedding was observed for both strains from each of the infected individuals of both avian species. The study concludes a varying susceptibility of chickens and pigeons to different wild bird-originated AAvV 1 pathotypes and, therefore, suggests continuous monitoring and surveillance of currently prevailing strains for effective control of the disease worldwide, particularly in disease-endemic countries.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F El Naggar, M. M. Hamoud, A. - H. I. Bazid, A. M. Gamal, S. E. Laban, M. A. Abdel-Sabour, S. A. E. Nasr, M. M. Zaki, M. Z. Shabbir, et al., "Emergence and genetic analysis of variant pathogenic 4/91 (serotype 793/B) infectious bronchitis virus in Egypt during 2019.", Virus genes, vol. 55, issue 5, pp. 720-725, 2019. Abstract

Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) affects both vaccinated and unvaccinated flocks worldwide, with a significant impact on the poultry industry. The aim of the present study is to characterize an emerging variant pathogenic IBV originating from field outbreaks in vaccinated Egyptian layer flock. Samples were collected from disease-suspected flock with a history of administration of live and inactivated IBV vaccines (Ma5 type). Virus propagation in embryonated chicken eggs (ECEs), after three successive passages, revealed typical IBV lesions such as curling and dwarfism. The reported isolate was identified by a real-time reverse transcriptase PCR assay targeting nucleocapsid (N) gene and, further characterized by full-length spike (S1) gene sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis revealed clustering of the isolated virus within 4/91 genotype of GI-13 lineage. Deduced amino acid sequences identity revealed 75-76% and 88-90% similarity with the currently used classic (H120, Ma5, and M41) and variant vaccine strains (4/91 and CR88) in Egypt, respectively. Recombination analysis gave an evidence for distinct patterns of origin for the studied isolate providing another example of intra-genotypic recombination among IBVs and the first example of recombination within the GI-13 lineage in the Egyptian field. The studied isolate (IBV/CK/EG/Fadllah-10/2019) emerged as a result of recombination between the variant group (Egy/var I genotype, GI-23 lineage) as a major parent and the CR88 variant vaccine strain (4/91 genotype, GI-13 lineage) as minor parent. Our data suggest that both mutation and recombination may be contributing to the emergence of IBV variants which ascertain the importance of disease monitoring in vaccinated flocks as well as re-appropriation for the current vaccine strategies.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F El Naggar, A. M. Helal, M. M. Bayoumi, M. A. El-Saied, K. A. Ahmed, M. Z. Shabbir, and M. Munir, "Genetic Diversity and Phylodynamics of Avian Coronaviruses in Egyptian Wild Birds.", Viruses, vol. 11, issue 1, 2019. Abstract

Avian coronaviruses (ACoVs) are continuously evolving and causing serious economic consequences in the poultry industry and around the globe. Owing to their extensive genetic diversity and high mutation rates, controlling ACoVs has become a challenge. In this context, the potential contribution of wild birds in the disease dynamics, especially in domesticated birds, remains largely unknown. In the present study, five hundred fifty-seven ( = 557) cloacal/fecal swabs were collected from four different wild bird species from eight Egyptian governorates during 2016 and a total of fourteen positive isolates were used for phylodynamics and evolutionary analysis. Genetic relatedness based on spike (S1) gene demonstrated the clustering of majority of these isolates where nine isolates grouped within Egy/variant 2 (IS/885 genotype) and five isolates clustered within Egy/variant 1 (IS/1494/06 genotype). Interestingly, these isolates showed noticeable genetic diversity and were clustered distal to the previously characterized Egy/variant 1 and Egy/variant 2 in Egyptian commercial poultry. The S1 gene based comparison of nucleotide identity percentages revealed that all fourteen isolates reported in this study were genetically related to the variant GI-23 lineage with 92⁻100% identity. Taken together, our results demonstrate that ACoVs are circulating in Egyptian wild birds and highlight their possible contributions in the disease dynamics. The study also proposes that regular monitoring of the ACoVs in wild birds is required to effectively assess the role of wild birds in disease spread, and the emergence of ACoVs strains in the country.

Santhakumar, D., M. A. M. S. Rohaim, H. A. Hussein, P. Hawes, H. L. Ferreira, S. Behboudi, M. Iqbal, V. Nair, C. W. Arns, and M. Munir, "Chicken Interferon-induced Protein with Tetratricopeptide Repeats 5 Antagonizes Replication of RNA Viruses.", Scientific reports, vol. 8, issue 1, pp. 6794, 2018 May 01. Abstract

The intracellular actions of interferon (IFN)-regulated proteins, including IFN-induced proteins with tetratricopeptide repeats (IFITs), attribute a major component of the protective antiviral host defense. Here we applied genomics approaches to annotate the chicken IFIT locus and currently identified a single IFIT (chIFIT5) gene. The profound transcriptional level of this effector of innate immunity was mapped within its unique cis-acting elements. This highly virus- and IFN-responsive chIFIT5 protein interacted with negative sense viral RNA structures that carried a triphosphate group on its 5' terminus (ppp-RNA). This interaction reduced the replication of RNA viruses in lentivirus-mediated IFIT5-stable chicken fibroblasts whereas CRISPR/Cas9-edited chIFIT5 gene knockout fibroblasts supported the replication of RNA viruses. Finally, we generated mosaic transgenic chicken embryos stably expressing chIFIT5 protein or knocked-down for endogenous chIFIT5 gene. Replication kinetics of RNA viruses in these transgenic chicken embryos demonstrated the antiviral potential of chIFIT5 in ovo. Taken together, these findings propose that IFIT5 specifically antagonize RNA viruses by sequestering viral nucleic acids in chickens, which are unique in innate immune sensing and responses to viruses of both poultry and human health significance.

F El Naggar, R., M. A. Rohaim, A. H. H. Bazid, K. A. Ahmed, H. A. Hussein, and M. Munir, "Biological characterization of wild-bird-origin avian avulavirus 1 and efficacy of currently applied vaccines against potential infection in commercial poultry.", Archives of virology, vol. 163, issue 10, pp. 2743-2755, 2018. Abstract

Newcastle disease virus (NDV), the type member of the species Avian avulavirus 1 (formerly known as avian paramyxovirus serotype 1), causes a highly contagious and economically important disease in a myriad of avian species around the globe. While extensive vaccination programs have been implemented in ND-endemic countries, the disease is continuously spreading in commercial, backyard, and wild captive poultry. In order to investigate the evolution of the virus and assess the efficiency of the vaccine regimens that are currently being applied in commercial poultry, four wild-bird-origin NDV strains were characterized biologically, based on mean death time and intracerebral pathogenicity index, and genetically, based on the cleavage motif (RRQKRF) in the fusion (F) protein. Based on these features, all of the isolates were characterized as velogenic strains of NDV. Phylogenetic analysis based on the complete genome sequence revealed clustering of these isolates within class II, genotype VII. This class of NDV remains the predominant genotype in the Egyptian poultry industry, as well as in those of many Asian and African countries. To investigate the potential of these wild-bird-origin NDV isolates to cause infection in domesticated poultry and to assess the efficacy of currently available vaccines for protection of commercial poultry, an extensive animal challenge experiment was performed. Cumulative clinicopathological and immunological investigations of virus-challenged chickens indicate that these isolates can potentially be transmitted between chicken and cause systemic infections, and the currently applied vaccines are unable to prevent clinical disease and virus shedding. Taken together, the data represent a comprehensive evaluation of the ability of Egyptian wild-bird-origin NDV strains to cause infection in commercial poultry and highlights the need for a continuous and large-scale surveillance as well as revised vaccine approaches. These integrated and multifaceted strategies would be crucial in any efforts to control and eradicate the disease globally.

Rohaim, M. A., D. Santhakumar, R. E. F. Naggar, M. Iqbal, H. A. Hussein, and M. Munir, "Chickens Expressing IFIT5 Ameliorate Clinical Outcome and Pathology of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and Velogenic Newcastle Disease Viruses.", Frontiers in immunology, vol. 9, pp. 2025, 2018. Abstract

Innate antiviral immunity establishes first line of defense against invading pathogens through sensing their molecular structures such as viral RNA. This antiviral potential of innate immunity is mainly attributed to a myriad of IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs). Amongst well-characterized ISGs, we have previously shown that antiviral potential of chicken IFN-induced proteins with tetratricopeptides repeats 5 (chIFIT5) is determined by its interaction potential with 5'ppp containing viral RNA. Here, we generated transgenic chickens using avian sarcoma-leukosis virus (RCAS)-based gene transfer system that constitutively and stably express chIFIT5. The transgenic chickens infected with clinical dose (EID 10 for HPAIV and 10 EID for vNDV) of high pathogenicity avian influenza virus (HPAIV; H5N1) or velogenic strain of Newcastle disease virus (vNDV; Genotype VII) showed marked resistance against infections. While transgenic chickens failed to sustain a lethal dose of these viruses (EID 10 for HPAIV and 10 EID for vNDV), a delayed and lower level of clinical disease and mortality, reduced virus shedding and tissue damage was observed compared to non-transgenic control chickens. These observations suggest that stable expression of chIFIT5 alone is potentially insufficient in providing sterile protection against these highly virulent viruses; however, it is sufficient to ameliorate the clinical outcome of these RNA viruses. These findings propose the potential of innate immune genes in conferring genetic resistance in chickens against highly pathogenic and zoonotic viral pathogens causing sever disease in both animals and humans.

Wahid H El-Dabae, Hussein Aly Hussein, H. A. Hussein, M. A. Rohaim, M. M. El-Safty, N. S. Ata, and I. M. Reda, "Saponin-adjuvanted vaccine protects chickens against velogenic Newcastle disease virus.", Archives of virology, vol. 163, issue 9, pp. 2423-2432, 2018. Abstract

Despite extensive vaccination campaigns, Newcastle disease virus (NDV) remains endemic in many countries worldwide, and factors that contribute to this failure include mismatched vaccines, partial immunization, and poor husbandry practices. In order to overcome the problem of genetic divergence between circulating field strains and vaccine strains, we saponin-adjuvanted an Egyptian field strain and assessed its safety and immunogenicity in chickens. Immunization of chickens with the vaccine followed by challenge with a velogenic reference strain revealed the potential of the saponin-adjuvanted vaccine to induce a strong immune response that resulted in complete protection of chickens. Importantly, in vaccinated chickens, virus shedding was abolished, providing an added advantage over the currently available commercial live-attenuated and inactivated vaccines, which are unable to prevent shedding. A histopathological investigation demonstrated that the vaccinated chickens had less-severe lesions than challenged unvaccinated and mock-vaccinated chickens. We propose using this formulation as an alternative and improved NDV vaccine platform that can be exploited to control disease not only in Egypt but also in other disease-endemic countries.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F. El Naggar, A. M. Helal, H. A. Hussein, and M. Munir, "Reverse spillover of avian viral vaccine strains from domesticated poultry to wild birds.", Vaccine, vol. 35, issue 28, pp. 3523-3527, 2017 Jun 16. Abstract

Transmission of viruses from the commercial poultry to wild birds is an emerging paradigm of livestock-wildlife interface. Here, we report the identification and isolation of vaccine strains of avian paramyxovirus serotype 1 (APMV1) and avian coronaviruses (ACoV) from different wild bird species across eight Egyptian governorates between January 2014 and December 2015. Surveillance of avian respiratory viruses in free-ranging wild birds (n=297) identified three species that harboured or excreted APMV1 and ACoVs. Genetic characterization and phylogenetic analysis of recovered viruses revealed a close association with the most widely utilized vaccine strains in the country. These results highlight the potential spillover of vaccine-viruses probably due to extensive use of live-attenuated vaccines in the commercial poultry, and close interaction between domesticated and wild bird populations. Further exploring the full spectrum of vaccine-derived viral vaccine strains in wild birds might help to assess the emergence of future wild-birds origin viruses.

Rohaim, M. A., R. F. El-Naggar, M. M. Hamoud, S. A. Nasr, E. Ismael, S. E. Laban, H. A. Ahmed, and M. Munir, "Re-Emergence of a Novel H5N1 Avian Influenza Virus Variant Subclade in Egypt During 2014.", Transboundary and emerging diseases, 2016 Jan 22. Abstract

Large-scale surveillance is crucial for understanding the evolution and the emergence of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) in endemic areas. Circulation of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 is continuously causing significant economic losses to the Egyptian poultry industry and is a threat to public health. In this report, a HPAI H5N1 strain (A/chicken/Egypt/Fadllah-7/2014) was detected from a vaccinated flock showing clinical signs of infection. Genetic characterization of the isolate indicated a high level of nucleotide identity (95-98%) with variant and classical groups of H5N1. Moreover, multiple-nucleotide and amino acid alignments revealed several prominent and characteristic substitutions in the surface glycoprotein, which may have biological relevance to the pathobiology of the virus. Phylogenetic analysis demonstrated that the reported isolate closely relates to H5N1 AIVs subclade in spite of no reports of this subclade since 2011 from AI reported cases in Egyptian avian species. In conclusion, our results highlight the re-emergence of a novel H5N1 AIV variant subclade that could escape immunity induced by vaccines. This discovery illustrates the importance of continuous monitoring of poultry in this country for controlling AIV including identifying sources of vaccine seed viruses.

Hussein, H. A., B. M. Ahmed, S. M. Aly, A. H. El-deeb, A. A. El-Sanousi, M. A. Rohaim, A. A. Arafa, and M. R. Gadalla, "Protective efficacy of a prime-boost protocol using H5-DNA plasmid as prime and inactivated H5N2 vaccine as the booster against the Egyptian avian influenza challenge virus.", Acta virologica, vol. 60, issue 3, pp. 307-15, 2016. Abstract

In this study, a recombinant DNA plasmid was constructed, encoding for HA1 of a selected Egyptian H5N1 virus (isolated during the 2012 outbreaks). In the immunization and challenge experiments, SPF chickens received 1 or 2 doses of H5-DNA plasmid prime, and boosted with the inactivated H5N2 vaccine. Haemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers, protection levels, and the magnitude of virus shedding were compared to that of the chickens that received either DNA plasmid or inactivated H5N2 vaccine alone. H5N1 virus A/chicken/Egypt/128s/2012 (H5N1) highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) clade 2.2.1/C was used for the challenge. Chickens immunized with 1 or 2 doses of H5-DNA vaccine failed to overcome the challenge with 0% and 10% protection, respectively. Quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR revealed virus shedding of 2.2 x 104 PCR copies/ml 3 days post challenge (dpc) in the only surviving bird from the group that received 2 doses of plasmid. However, chickens immunized with 1 or 2 doses of H5-DNA plasmid as prime and inactivated H5N2 vaccine as booster, showed 80% protection after challenge, with a viral shedding of 1.2 x 104 PCR copies/ml (1 dose) and 1.6 x 104 PCR copies/ml (2 doses) 3 dpc. The surviving birds in both groups did not shed the virus at 5 and 7 dpc. In H5N2-vaccinated chickens, protection levels were 70% with relatively high virus shedding (1.8 x 104 PCR copies/ml) 3 dpc. HI titers were protective to the surviving chickens. This study reports the efficacy of H5-DNA plasmid to augment reduction in viral shedding and to provide better protection when applied in a prime-boost program with the inactivated AI vaccine.

Rohaim, M. A., and H. H. A. ⃰, "Continous Circulation of Avian Influenza H5N1 Clade 2.2.1/C in Egypt during 2012", International Journal of Poultry Science, 2014.
Hussein, H. A., M. M. Emara, and M.A. Rohaim, "Molecular Characterization of Newcastle Disease Virus Genotype VIID in Avian influenza H5N1 Infected Broiler Flock in Egypt", International Journal of Virology, vol. 10, pp. 46-54., 2014.
Bassiouny, A. I., S. M. Soliman, H. A. Hussein, M. A. Rohiam, and A. A. El-Sanousi, "Sequence Analysis of Camelpox virus Isolated in Egypt", International Journal of Virology,, vol. 10, pp. 121-128., 2014.