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Open Access Circoviruses: immunosuppressive threats to avian species: a review

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Circoviruses are small, non-enveloped, icosahedral viruses that are unique among animal viruses in having circular, single-stranded DNA genomes. Their genomes are also the smallest possessed by animal viruses. The circovirus family currently comprises three members, chicken anaemia virus, porcine circovirus, and psittacine beak and feather disease virus, with pigeon circovirus being classified as a tentative member. Infections with each of the four circoviruses are associated with potentially fatal diseases in which virus-induced damage to lymphoid tissue and immunosuppression are common features. Experience with other animal virus families suggests that additional animal species will be infected by, as yet undiscovered, circoviruses and that these may display similar tissue tropism and disease-causing potential. Recent reports describing the association of circovirus-like viruses with immunodeficiency-related diseases of geese and southern black-backed gulls suggest that circovirus infections of avian species may be more common than previously recognized, and prompt the question of whether novel circoviruses infect poultry to cause clinical and/or subclinical diseases that may be economically important. This review has three purposes. First, it is designed to summarize the currently available information about the classified circoviruses and viruses that are regarded as circovirus-like. Second, it aims to alert the readership to the possibility that other avian species, including commercial poultry, may be infected with novel circoviruses. Finally, possible methods for discovering novel circoviruses and for controlling infections by such viruses are suggested.

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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: Veterinary Sciences Division, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland, Stoney Road, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3SD, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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