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Avian Pathol. 2014;43(4):310-8. doi: 10.1080/03079457.2014.924616. Epub 2014 Jun 17.

Subclinical circulation of avian hepatitis E virus within a multiple-age rearing and broiler breeder farm indicates persistence and vertical transmission of the virus.

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a Clinic for Poultry and Fish Medicine , University of Veterinary Medicine , Vienna , Austria.


In a prospective longitudinal study, a broiler breeder flock and its progeny were monitored for the presence of avian hepatitis E virus (HEV) RNA and antibodies. The flock was part of a multiple-age farm where the presence of avian HEV with clinical signs (increased mortality and decreased egg production) was demonstrated in several previous production cycles. Samples were taken twice at the rearing site and several times at the production site from broiler breeders including cockerels and day-old chicks. The samples were investigated by conventional and real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and histological methods. At all time points, samples from the hens were positive for avian HEV RNA. The birds did not show any clinical signs, even though histopathological lesions of non-specific aetiology in the liver and spleen could be demonstrated. A significant increase in the number of positive birds and viral load was seen in week 45, in accordance with an increase in antibody titres. In comparison, cockerels investigated in week 62 tested negative by RT-PCR and ELISA. Avian HEV RNA was also detected in day-old chicks hatched from eggs laid in week 25, indicating vertical transmission. All partial helicase and capsid sequences retrieved within this study clustered together and were identical to previous sequences obtained from the same multiple-age farm. In conclusion, avian HEV persisted on the farm over years and circulated between the rearing and the production sites without causing any clinical signs although high viral loads in the adult hens were observed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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