After its first identification in 1978, canine parvovirus (CPV) has been recognized all around the world as a major threat for canine population health. This ssDNA virus is characterized by a high substitution rate and several genetic and phenotypic variants emerged over time. Overall, the definition of 3 main antigenic variants was established based on specific amino acid markers located in a precise capsid position. However, the detection of several minor variants and incongruence observed between the antigenic classification and phylogeny have posed doubts on the reliability of this scheme. At the same time, CPV heterogeneity has favored the hypothesis of a differential virulence among variants, although no robust and consistent demonstration has been provided yet. The present study rejects the antigenic variant concept and attempts to evaluate the association between CPV strain phylogeny, reconstructed using the whole information contained in the VP2 coding gene, and several clinical and hemato-biochemical parameters, assessed from 34 CPV infected dogs at admission. By using different statistical approaches, the results of the present study show an association between viral phylogeny and host parameters ascribable to immune system, coagulation profile, acute phase response and, more generally, to the overall picture of the animal response. Particularly, a strong and significant phylogenetic signal was proven for neutrophil count and WBC. Therefore, despite the limited sample size, a relation between viral phylogeny and disease severity has been observed for the first time, suggesting that CPV virulence is an inherited trait. The likely existence of clades with different virulence highlights once more the relevance of intensive epidemiological monitoring and research on CPV evolution to better understand the virulence determinants, their epidemiology and develop adequate countermeasures.
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