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Vet Pathol. 2006 Jul;43(4):463-70.

Neurotropism of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus A/chicken/Indonesia/2003 (H5N1) in experimentally infected pigeons (Columbia livia f. domestica).

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Institute of Infectology, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, 17493 Greifswald--Insel Riems, Germany .


This investigation assessed the susceptibility of experimentally infected pigeons to the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) H5N1 that caused recent outbreaks of avian influenza in birds and humans in several countries of Asia. For this purpose 14 pigeons were infected ocularly and nasally with 10(8) EID50 and clinical signs were recorded and compared with five chickens infected simultaneously as positive controls. The chickens demonstrated anorexia, depression, and 100% mortality within 2 days postinoculation. Three of the pigeons died after a history of depression and severe neurological signs consisting of paresis to paralysis, mild enteric hemorrhage, resulting in a mortality of 21%. Gross lesions in these pigeons were mild and inconsistent. Occasionally subcutaneous hyperemia and hemorrhage and cerebral malacia were observed. Microscopic lesions and detection of viral antigen were confined to the central nervous system of these pigeons. In the cerebrum and to a minor extent in the brain stem a lymphohistiocytic meningoencephalitis with disseminated neuronal and glial cell necrosis, perivascular cuffing, glial nodules, and in one bird focally extensive liquefactive necrosis could be observed. The remaining nine pigeons showed neither clinical signs nor gross or histological lesions associated with avian influenza, although seroconversion against H5 indicated that they had been infected. These results confirm that pigeons are susceptible to HPAIV A/chicken/Indonesia/2003 (H5N1) and that the disease is associated with the neurotropism of this virus. Although sentinel chickens and most pigeons did not develop disease, further experiments have to elucidate whether or not Columbiformes are involved in transmission and spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

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