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Open Access Avian hepatitis E virus infection and possible associated clinical disease in broiler breeder flocks in Hungary

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In broiler breeder flocks in one broiler integration in Hungary, a new syndrome appeared in January 2005 with initially four successive post-peak flocks experiencing significant decreases in egg production. Clinically birds became depressed and there was a small increase in the mortality rate. Postmortem examinations revealed enlarged livers in up to 19% of birds dying, and enlarged spleens in some. Also observed were birds with either clotted blood or serosanguineous fluid in the abdomen and subcapsular haemorrhages of the liver. Histopathology and polymerase chain reaction excluded tumours and the presence of common tumour-associated viruses. Chronic bacterial infections (especially causing hepatitis, peritonitis and airsacculitis) were common but many enlarged livers had no obvious bacterial involvement. After a 9-month period during which a majority of flocks became affected, no newly affected flocks occurred. Investigations showed that all tested affected flocks were seropositive in the big liver and spleen (BLS) Agar Gel Immunodiffusion test. Subsequent flocks without post-peak egg-production drops were shown to be seronegative in the BLS AGID test, as were all the parent flocks contributing to the affected flocks. Liver samples and cloacal swabs were positive by polymerase chain reaction (aHEV helicase target), and calicivirus-like particles were demonstrated in bile samples from affected birds. These observations are similar to hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome as described in North America and BLS syndrome as described in Australia. Histopathological features were a non-specific chronic hepatitis similar to those described in BLS and hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome. Immunohistochemistry using a BLS-specific monoclonal antibody confirmed the presence of avian hepatitis E virus antigen in livers and spleen.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Bioproperties Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia 2: Babolna Breeding Farms KFT, Meszaros u. 1, Hungary 3: Aviagen Kft, Győr, Fehervari u. 75, Hungary 4: Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Pentlands Science Park, Bush Loan, Penicuik, Midlothian, UK 5: Department for Electronmicroscopy, Institute for Veterinary Disease Control, Robert Kochgasse 17, Modling, Austria 6: Clinic for Avian, Reptile and Fish Medicine, Veterinarplatz 1, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Austria

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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