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Cutaneous fowlpox is a disease of chickens and turkeys caused by the fowlpox virus (FWPV), characterized by the development of proliferative lesions and scabs on unfeathered areas. FWPVs regularly carry an integrated, active copy of the reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV), and it has been hypothesized that such FWPVs are more problematic in the field. Extensive outbreaks are usually observed in tropical and sub-tropical climates, where biting insects are more difficult to control. Here, we report an epidemic of 65 cutaneous fowlpox cases in Austria in layer chickens (91% of the cases) and broiler breeders and turkeys, all of them unvaccinated against the disease, from October 2018 to February 2020. The field data revealed appearance in flocks of different sizes ranging from less than 5000 birds up to more than 20,000 animals, with the majority raised indoors in a barn system. The clinical presentation was characterized by typical epithelial lesions on the head of the affected birds, with an average decrease of 6% in egg production and an average weekly mortality of 1.2% being observed in the flocks. A real-time multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) confirmed the presence of FWPV-REV DNA, not only in the lesions but also in the environmental dust from the poultry houses. The integration of the REV provirus into the FWPV genome was confirmed by PCR, and revealed different FWPV genome populations carrying either the REV long terminal repeats (LTRs) or the full-length REV genome, reiterating the instability of the inserted REV. Two selected samples were fully sequenced by next generation sequencing (NGS), and the whole genome phylogenetic analysis revealed a regional clustering of the FWPV genomes. The extensive nature of these outbreaks in host populations naïve for the virus is a remarkable feature of the present report, highlighting new challenges associated with FWPV infections that need to be considered. © 2022 The Authors. Transboundary and Emerging Diseases published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.


Miguel Matos, Ivana Bilic, Nicola Palmieri, Peter Mitsch, Franz Sommer, Jana Tvarogová, Dieter Liebhart, Michael Hess. Epidemic of cutaneous fowlpox in a naïve population of chickens and turkeys in Austria: Detailed phylogenetic analysis indicates co-evolution of fowlpox virus with reticuloendotheliosis virus. Transboundary and emerging diseases. 2022 Sep;69(5):2913-2923

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PMID: 34974640

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