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The genetic characteristics, of 38 field isolates of bovine viral diarrhoea virus (BVDV) collected in 1999 from sick or healthy and persistently infected cattle of dairy farms situated in northern Italy, were investigated. A partial 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) sequence of each isolate was determined and a phylogenetic analysis was performed. All the isolates were classified as belonging to the BVDV-1 genotype and could be assigned to different BVDV-1 groups, namely BVDV-1b (n = 20), BVDV-1d (n = 6) and BVDV-1e (n = 10). Two remaining isolates could be classified as BVDV-1f and BVDV-1h, respectively. These results provided evidence for genetic heterogeneity of BVDV in Italy, and contribute to a better knowledge of the circulation of BVDV strains, and to their classification.