A virus closely related to duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) was isolated from serum and liver samples of wild migratory ducks (mallards) caught in two separate wildlife reserve parks in France. In the first one (Dombes region) 12% of wild mallards were positive for DHBV, and in the second (River Somme) 3% of mallards were found positive. The DHBV isolated from the serum of wild mallards was also associated with an endogenous DNA polymerase activity capable of completing a partially double-stranded viral DNA into a fully double-stranded DNA of 3 kb. The various replicative DNA forms reported for DHBV were also detected in the liver of wild viraemic mallards. The DNA restriction enzyme pattern of the wild mallard strain differed from that of American and French strains of DHBV. The wild mallard strain DHBV was experimentally transmitted to mallard and Pekin ducklings and induced a chronic viraemia in both varieties of infected birds. This strain might be the common ancestor of all DHBV strains isolated from domestic ducks world-wide. The discovery of a DHBV-related virus in the natural wild population might be an important clue in the study of the different roles of environmental, host and viral factors in the pathogenesis of DHBV infection, and their possible oncogenic action in ducks.


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