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Open Access Poxvirus Infection in a Colony of Laboratory Pigeons (Columba livia)

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Pigeons (Columba livia) are used in biomedical research for studies of vision, cognition, neuronal pathways, and spatial orientation. Because there are few commercial laboratory sources, research pigeons are typically acquired from local fancier breeders or bred onsite. For acquired pigeons, the health and vaccine status is often unknown. A juvenile pigeon, born onsite and living in an enclosed outdoor loft, presented with small, bleeding, wart-like lesions on the medial aspects of digits 1 and 4. Topical treatment was initiated. Within a week, 4 fledglings were reported for small, dark papular lesions on the face, head, neck, and beak, and shortly thereafter, 2 additional juvenile pigeons developed similar lesions. The fledglings were euthanized, and histologic examination revealed numerous intralesional eosinophilic cytoplasmic viral inclusions (Bollinger bodies) confirming a diagnosis of poxvirus infection, likely pigeon pox. Although usually self-limiting, pigeon pox can cause moderate to severe lesions in fledgling and juvenile birds. Vaccination with a modified live poxvirus labeled for chickens was used to create herd immunity to pigeon poxvirus. Since vaccination of our entire flock and implementation of more stringent health protocols, all lesions have resolved, and no new lesions have been noted.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Comparative Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, Email: [email protected] 2: Center for Comparative Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas

Publication date: June 1, 2019

This article was made available online on March 18, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "Poxvirus Infection in a Colony of Laboratory Pigeons (Columba livia)".

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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