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Histopathological and immunohistochemical study of exocrine and endocrine pancreatic lesions in avian influenza A experimentally infected turkeys showing evidence of pancreatic regeneration

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In order to investigate the pancreatic lesions caused by the infection with either H7N1 or H7N3 low-pathogenicity avian influenza viruses, 28 experimentally infected turkeys were submitted for histopathology, immunohistochemistry, haematobiochemistry and real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction after different days post-infection (DPI). The localization of viral antigen and the measurement of insulin and glucagon expression in the pancreas were assessed to verify the progression from pancreatitis to metabolic disorders, such as diabetes. At the early infection phase (4–7 DPI), a severe acute necrotizing pancreatitis was recognized. During the intermediate phase (8–17 DPI), a mixed acute/chronic change associated with regenerative ductular proliferation was observed. A loss of pancreatic islets was detected in most severe cases and viral antigen was found in the pancreas of 11/28 turkeys (4–10 DPI) with the most severe histological damage. In turkeys euthanized at 39 DPI (late phase), a chronic fibrosing pancreatitis was observed with the reestablishment of both the exocrine and the endocrine pancreas. Insulin and glucagon expression manifested a progressive decrease with subsequent ductular positivity. Haematobiochemistry revealed increased lipasemia in the first week post-infection and hyperglycaemia in the second, with a progressive normalization within 21 DPI. This study allowed the identification of progressive virus-associated exocrine and endocrine pancreatic damage, suggesting that influenza virus might be responsible for metabolic derangements. Moreover, it highlighted a remarkable post-damage hyperplastic and reparative process from a presumptive common exocrine/endocrine precursor. This potential regeneration deserves further investigation for its relevance in a therapeutic perspective to replace lost and non-functional cells in diabetes mellitus.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science, University of Padova, Padova, Italy 2: Division of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, Legnaro, Italy

Publication date: November 2, 2015

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