We have carried out an antigenic analysis and nucleotide sequence comparison of the envelope glycoprotein of recognized louping ill virus strains isolated from Scotland with that of a Norwegian virus known to cause encephalomyelitis in sheep. Monoclonal antibodies with defined specificity for the louping ill virus envelope glycoprotein failed to distinguish between the Norwegian virus and prototype louping ill virus in indirect immunofluorescence, haemagglutination inhibition and neutralization tests. Nucleotide sequencing of the envelope glycoprotein and alignment of the deduced amino acid sequence with other known sequences revealed that the Norwegian virus closely resembles (> 95% identity for nucleotide and > 98% identity for amino acid sequences) louping ill virus. Maximum variation in identities among four strains of louping ill virus were 4.4% and 1.8% respectively for nucleotide and amino acid alignments. We conclude that sheep encephalomyelitis in Norway is caused by louping ill virus. These results imply that other viruses present in Europe and known to cause encephalitis/encephalomyelitis of sheep could be caused by louping ill virus.


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