Equine rotavirus group A (ERVA) is one of the most common causes of foal diarrhea. Starting in February 2021, there was an increase in the frequency of severe watery to hemorrhagic diarrhea cases in neonatal foals in Central Kentucky. Diagnostic investigation of fecal samples failed to detect evidence of diarrhea-causing pathogens including ERVA. Based on Illumina-based metagenomic sequencing, we identified a novel equine rotavirus group B (ERVB) in fecal specimens from the affected foals in the absence of any other known enteric pathogens. Interestingly, the protein sequence of all 11 segments had greater than 96% identity with group B rotaviruses previously found in ruminants. Furthermore, phylogenetic analysis demonstrated clustering of the ERVB with group B rotaviruses of caprine and bovine strains from the USA. Subsequent analysis of 33 foal diarrheic samples by RT-qPCR identified 23 rotavirus B-positive cases (69.69%). These observations suggest that the ERVB originated from ruminants and was associated with outbreaks of neonatal foal diarrhea in the 2021 foaling season in Kentucky. Emergence of the ruminant-like group B rotavirus in foals clearly warrants further investigation due to the significant impact of the disease in neonatal foals and its economic impact on the equine industry.

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Published in Viruses, v. 13, issue 7, 1330.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This study was supported by the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of Kentucky, the William Robert Mills Chair Endowment Fund, and the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

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Data were submitted to Genbank under accession nos. MZ327688-MZ327698.