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Molecular analysis and associated pathology of beak and feather disease virus isolated in Italy from young Congo African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) with an “atypical peracute form” of the disease

Robino, Patrizia, Grego, Elena, Rossi, Giacomo, Bert, Elena, Tramuta, Clara, Stella, Maria Cristina, Bertoni, Pierfrancesco, Nebbia, Patrizia
Avian pathology 2014 v.43 no.4 pp. 333-344
Beak and feather disease virus, Psittacus erithacus, antigens, apoptosis, beak, breeding, coat proteins, cytoplasm, feathers, food safety, genes, parrots, viruses, Italy, Republic of the Congo
This study is the first report on the genetic and pathogenic characterization of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) occurring in Italy. Twenty BFDV strains isolated in Italy from juvenile Congo African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) were investigated. Seventeen strains showed an “atypical peracute form” (aPF) of the disease, and three a chronic form (CF). The birds with aPF had been weaned, were independent as far as food and protection were concerned and apparently were without lesions. The gene coding for the putative coat protein was amplified in all isolates while the BFDV genome was sequenced completely in 10 samples, eight of them belonging to aPF affected birds and two from CF of the disease. All full genomes clustered into the J strain of BFDV, where two new subtypes were identified. Recombination analyses showed evidence of genetic exchanges in two BFDV genomes. In addition, a correlation between viral isolate and origin of the breeding material was shown, while an association between the genetic features of the virus and the clinical form was not observed. Histologically, apoptosis was detected frequently in aPF samples and sporadically in CF samples. Interestingly, BFDV antigens were detected in the nuclei and cytoplasm of such apoptotic cells. The data presented here support the hypothesis that, in the absence of a defined BFDV genetic variant accountable for a specific clinical form of psittacine beak and feather disease, differences in the apoptotic rate between aPF and CF are strictly host related.