1887

Abstract

Avian hepatitis E virus (HEV), a novel virus identified from chickens with hepatitis–splenomegaly (HS) syndrome, is genetically and antigenically related to human HEV. Recently, it was found that avian HEV antibody is also prevalent in healthy chickens. A prospective study was done on a known seropositive but healthy chicken farm to identify avian HEV isolates from healthy chickens. Fourteen chickens were randomly selected, tagged and monitored under natural conditions for 19 weeks. All 14 chickens were seronegative at the beginning of the study at 12 weeks of age. By 21 weeks of age, all 14 chickens had seroconverted to avian HEV antibody. None of the chickens had any sign of HS syndrome. Partial helicase gene and capsid gene sequences of avian HEV isolates recovered from a healthy chicken were determined and found to share 75–97 % nucleotide sequence identity with the corresponding regions of avian HEV isolates from chickens with HS syndrome. Thus far, only one strain of avian HEV from a chicken with HS syndrome has been genetically characterized for its capsid gene, therefore the capsid gene region of an additional 14 isolates from chickens with HS syndrome were also characterized. The capsid genes of avian HEV isolates from chickens with HS syndrome were found to be heterogeneic, sharing 76–100 % nucleotide sequence identity with each other. This study indicates that avian HEV is enzootic in chicken flocks and spreads subclinically among chickens in the United States and that the virus is heterogeneic.

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2004-03-01
2019-11-19
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