Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) causes severe diarrhea and a high rate of mortality in suckling pigs. The epidemic of PEDV that occurred after 2013 was caused by non-insertion and deletion of S gene (S-INDEL) PEDV strains. During this epidemic, a variant of the non-S-INDEL PEDV strain with a large deletion of 205 amino acids on the spike gene (5-17-V) was also found to co-exist with a non-S-INDEL PEDV without deletion (5-17-O). Herein, we describe the differences in the complete genome, distribution, virulence, and antigenicity between strain 5-17-O and variant strain 5-17-V. The deletion of 205 amino acids was primarily located in the S1 domain and was associated with milder clinical signs and lower mortality in suckling pigs than those of the 5-17-O strain. The 5-17-V strain-induced antibody did not completely cross-neutralize the 5-17-O strain. In conclusion, the deletion in the S1 region reduces the virulence of PEDV and influences the virus-neutralizing activities of the antibody it induces.
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