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UCSF researchers identify virus behind mysterious parrot disease
Date:7/30/2008

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have identified a virus behind the mysterious infectious disease that has been killing parrots and exotic birds for more than 30 years.

The team, led by UCSF professors Joseph DeRisi, PhD, and Don Ganem, MD, also has developed a diagnostic test for the virus linked to Proventricular Dilation Disease, or PDD, which will enable veterinarians worldwide to control the spread of the virus.

Results of the study will be published in Virology Journal and will appear online in August. The findings also will be presented in full at the August 11 annual meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians, in Savannah, GA.

The new virus, which the team named Avian Bornavirus (ABV), is a member of the bornavirus family, whose other members cause encephalitis in horses and livestock. Working with veterinarians on two continents, the group isolated this virus in 71 percent of the samples from infected birds, but none of the healthy individuals.

"This discovery has potentially solved a mystery that has been plaguing the avian veterinary community since the 1970s," said DeRisi, a molecular biologist whose laboratory aided in the 2003 discovery of the virus causing Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in humans. "These results clearly reveal the existence of an avian reservoir of remarkably diverse bornaviruses that are dramatically different from anything seen in other animals."

The discovery could have profound consequences on both domesticated parrots and in the conservation of endangered species, according to DeRisi and Ganem, both Howard Hughes Medical Investigators at UCSF. Those species include the Spix's Macaw, currently one of the most endangered birds in the world, whose number has dwindled to roughly 100 worldwide and whose continued existence is threatened by PDD.

The research was spearheaded by Amy Kistler, a postdoctoral fellow in the DeRi
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Contact: Kristen Bole
kbole@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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