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Trade and conservation implications of new beak and feather disease virus detection in native and introduced parrots

Fogell, Deborah J., Martin, Rowan O., Bunbury, Nancy, Lawson, Becki, Sells, James, McKeand, Alison M., Tatayah, Vikash, Trung, Cao Tien, Groombridge, Jim J.
Conservation biology 2018 v.32 no.6 pp. 1325-1335
Beak and feather disease virus, Psittacula, beak, biogeography, biosecurity, blood, indigenous species, international trade, introduced species, parrots, pets, phylogeny, polymerase chain reaction, statistical analysis, threatened species, viruses, Europe, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Asia, Western Africa
Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), caused by Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV), has spread rapidly around the world, raising concerns for threatened species conservation and biosecurity associated with the global pet bird trade. The virus has been reported in several wild parrot populations, but data are lacking for many taxa and geographical areas with high parrot endemism. We aimed to advance understanding of BFDV distribution in many data‚Äźdeficient areas and determine phylogenetic and biogeographic associations of the virus in 5 parrot species across Africa, the Indian Ocean islands, Asia, and Europe and focused specifically on the highly traded and invasive Psittacula krameri. Blood, feather, and tissue samples were screened for BFDV through standard polymerase chain reaction. Isolates obtained from positive individuals were then analyzed in a maximum likelihood phylogeny along with all other publically available global BFDV sequences. We detected BFDV in 8 countries where it was not known to occur previously, indicating the virus is more widely distributed than currently recognized. We documented for the first time the presence of BFDV in wild populations of P. krameri within its native range in Asia and Africa. We detected BFDV among introduced P. krameri in Mauritius and the Seychelles, raising concerns for island endemic species in the region. Phylogenetic relationships between viral sequences showed likely pathways of transmission between populations in southern Asia and western Africa. A high degree of phylogenetic relatedness between viral variants from geographically distant populations suggests recent introductions, likely driven by global trade. These findings highlight the need for effective regulation of international trade in live parrots, particularly in regions with high parrot endemism or vulnerable taxa where P. krameri could act as a reservoir host.