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Correlation Between Marek’s Disease Virus Pathotype and Replication

John R. Dunn, Kiva Auten, Mohammad Heidari, Celina Buscaglia
Avian diseases 2014 v.58 no.2 pp. 287-292
Mardivirus, Marek disease, antibodies, assays, body weight, brain, bursa of Fabricius, chickens, disease detection, lungs, microbial detection, pathotypes, thymus gland, virulence, virulent strains, virus replication, viruses
Marek’s disease (MD) virus (MDV) is an alphaherpesvirus that causes MD, a lymphoproliferative disease in chickens. Pathotyping has become an increasingly important assay for monitoring shifts in virulence of field strains; however, it is time-consuming and expensive, and alternatives are needed to provide fast answers in the face of current outbreaks. The purpose of this study was to determine whether differences in virus replication between pathotypes that have been reported using a small number of virulent (v) and very virulent plus (vv+) MDV strains could be confirmed with a large collection of MD viruses. Based on pilot study data, bursa, brain, and lung samples were collected at 9 and 11 days postinoculation (dpi) from birds challenged with 1 of 15 MDV strains. The correlation between virus replication and virulence was confirmed between vMDV strains and higher virulent strains, but in most cases, there was no significant difference between very virulent (vv) and vv+MDV groups. At both 9 and 11 dpi, chickens infected with vv and vv+MDV had significantly lower body weights and relative thymus and bursa weights compared with chickens challenged with vMDV. However, similar to virus quantity, there was no significant difference between weights in birds challenged with vv or vv+MDV. The significant differences observed in maternal antibody negative (ab2) chickens were not significant in maternal antibody positive (ab+) chickens, demonstrating the requirement of ab2 birds for this type of comparison. These data do not support the use of virus replication or organ weights as an alternative to pathotyping for discrimination between all three virulent MDV pathotypes but may be useful for determining a virus replication threshold to choose which field strains meet a minimum virulence to be pathotyped by traditional methods.