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Pathology and diagnosis of avian bornavirus infection in wild Canada geese (Branta canadensis), trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) and mute swans (Cygnus olor) in Canada: a retrospective study

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Nine hundred and fifty-five pathology cases collected in Ontario between 1992 and 2011 from wild free-ranging Canada geese, trumpeter swans and mute swans were retrospectively evaluated for the pathology associated with avian bornavirus (ABV) infection. Cases were selected based on the presence of upper gastrointestinal impaction, central nervous system histopathology or clinical history suggestive of ABV infection. The proportion of birds meeting at least one of these criteria was significantly higher at the Toronto Zoo (30/132) than elsewhere in Ontario (21/823). Central, peripheral and autonomic nervous tissues were examined for the presence of lymphocytes and plasma cells on histopathology. The presence of virus was assessed by immunohistochemistry and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on frozen brains and on formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues. Among selected cases, 86.3% (44/51) were considered positive on histopathology, 56.8% (29/51) were positive by immunohistochemistry, and RT-PCR was positive on 88.2% (15/17) of the frozen brains and 78.4% (40/51) of the formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded samples. Histopathological lesions included gliosis and lymphoplasmacytic perivascular cuffing in brain (97.7%), spinal cord (50%), peripheral nerves (55.5%) and myenteric ganglia or nerves (62.8%), resembling lesions described in parrots affected with proventricular dilatation disease. Partial amino acid sequences of the nucleocapsid gene from seven geese were 100% identical amongst themselves and 98.1 to 100% identical to the waterfowl sequences recently described in the USA. Although ABV has been identified in apparently healthy geese, our study confirmed that ABV can also be associated with significant disease in wild waterfowl species.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ontario Veterinary College,University of Guelph, Guelph,Ontario,N1G 2W1, Canada 2: Animal Health Laboratory,University of Guelph, Guelph,Ontario,N1G 2W1, Canada 3: Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, Guelph,Ontario,N1G 2W1, Canada 4: Toronto Zoo, Toronto,Ontario,M1B 5K7, Canada

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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