Avian paramyxovirus 1 (APMV-1), also known as Newcastle disease virus (NDV), causes severe and economically important disease in poultry around the globe. Although a limited amount of APMV-1 strains in urban areas have been characterized, the role of the urban wild bird population as an APMV-1 reservoir is unclear. Because urban birds may have an important role for long-term circulation of the virus, fecal and swab samples were collected by community scientists from wild birds in New York City (NYC), New York, United States. These samples were screened for APMV-1 and genotypically characterized by sequencing of the complete genome. A total of 885 samples were collected from NYC parks and from a local wildlife rehabilitation clinic from October 2020 through June 2021, and 255 samples obtained from 197 birds have been processed to date. Eight birds (4.1%) screened positive for the APMV-1 nucleoprotein gene by conventional reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR), and two live viruses were isolated via egg culture. A multibasic F protein cleavage sequence, 112R R K K R F117, an indicator of highly pathogenic velogenic APMV-1 strains, was present in the two samples fully sequenced by next generation sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of the F gene coding sequence classified both isolates into genotype VI, a diverse and predominant genotype responsible for APMV-1 outbreaks in pigeon and dove species worldwide. IMPORTANCE Here we describe the first large-scale effort to screen for APMV-1 in New York City’s wild bird population as part of the New York City Virus Hunters program, a community science initiative. We characterized two isolates of APMV-1, with phylogenetic analyses suggesting diversity in established and circulating strains of pigeon paramyxoviruses. Our isolates are also domestic reference strains for future APMV-1 vaccine developments. Future surveillance in this region may contribute to our understanding of APMV-1’s evolution and genetic diversity, as well as inform poultry husbandry and vaccination practices in New York State.
- Newcastle disease virus (NDV)
- avian paramyxovirus 1 (APMV-1)
- citizen science
- community science
- urban viral surveillance