Long-term persistence of the avian leukosis virus (ALV), the transformation-defective mutant of Prague strain Rous sarcoma virus subgroup C ( PR-C) was established in heterologous duck hosts after infection in mid-embryogenesis. Transient viraemia was observed for about 4 weeks after hatching and was lost in most of the infected ducks by about 6 months. Loss of viraemia was accompanied by the increasing synthesis of virus-neutralizing antibodies. In spite of strong virus-neutralizing antibodies, virus was detected by the cocultivation assay in duck tissues throughout the observation period up to 5 years. In the viraemic phase of infection, we found integrated proviruses in various tissues, preferentially in stomach muscle tissue and in the thymus. The long-term persistence of virus was frequently accompanied by liver necrosis and neoplastic diseases. Injection of PR-C virus into early embryos resulted in more pronounced infection accompanied by an increased copy number of viral DNA per cell, high mortality and remarkable atrophy of thymus tissue in infected ducklings.


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