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J Virol. 2003 Nov;77(21):11798-808.

Astrovirus induces diarrhea in the absence of inflammation and cell death.

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Department of Pathology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA.


Astroviruses are a leading cause of infantile viral gastroenteritis worldwide. Very little is known about the mechanisms of astrovirus-induced diarrhea. One reason for this is the lack of a small-animal model. Recently, we isolated a novel strain of astrovirus (TAstV-2) from turkeys with the emerging infectious disease poult enteritis mortality syndrome. In the present studies, we demonstrate that TAstV-2 causes growth depression, decreased thymus size, and enteric infection in infected turkeys. Infectious TAstV-2 can be recovered from multiple tissues, including the blood, suggesting that there is a viremic stage during infection. In spite of the severe diarrhea, histopathologic changes in the intestine were mild and there was a surprising lack of inflammation. This may be due to the increased activation of the potent immunosuppressive cytokine transforming growth factor beta during astrovirus infection. These studies suggest that the turkey will be a useful small-animal model with which to study astrovirus pathogenesis and immunity.

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