Main content area

Spotlight on avian pathology: fowlpox virus

Giotis, Efstathios S., Skinner, Michael A.
Avian pathology 2019 v.48 no.2 pp. 87-90
Fowlpox virus, Reticuloendotheliosis virus, flocks, insects, mutation, pathogens, penetrance, phylogeny, poultry, risk, sequence analysis, serotypes, vaccination, viruses, wild birds
Fowlpox virus is the type species of an extensive and poorly-defined group of viruses isolated from more than 200 species of birds, together comprising the avipoxvirus genus of the poxvirus family. Long known as a significant poultry pathogen, vaccines developed in the early and middle years of the twentieth century led to its effective eradication as a problem to commercial production in temperate climes in developed western countries (such that vaccination there is now far less common). Transmitted mechanically by biting insects, it remains problematic, causing significant losses to all forms of production (from backyard, through extensive to intensive commercial flocks), in tropical climes where control of biting insects is difficult. In these regions, vaccination (via intradermal or subcutaneous, and increasingly in ovo, routes) remains necessary. Although there is no evidence that more than a single serotype exists, there are poorly-described reports of outbreaks in vaccinated flocks. Whether this is due to inadequate vaccination or penetrance of novel variants remains unclear. Some such outbreaks have been associated with strains carrying endogenous, infectious proviral copies of the retrovirus reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV), which might represent a pathotypic (if not newly emerging) variant in the field. Until more is known about the phylogenetic structure of the avipoxvirus genus (by more widespread genome sequencing of isolates from different species of birds) it remains difficult to ascertain the risk of novel avipoxviruses emerging from wild birds (and/or by recombination/mutation) to infect farmed poultry.