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Avian reoviruses are ubiquitous in poultry production worldwide and can be transmitted vertically or horizontally among chickens. The pathogenicity of reoviruses can range from very pathogenic viruses that affect multiple tissues and organs to apathogenic. Avian reoviruses have been associated with many disease presentations, and two of the most economically significant diseases are viral arthritis/tenosynovitis and viral enteritis. Viral arthritis/tenosynovitis has been recognized since the 1950s and essentially disappeared after development of attenuated live and inactivated vaccines in the 1980s but re-emerged in 2011 due to the emergence of antigenic variants. Viral enteritis was first recognized in the 1970s and became the predominant reovirus-associated disease between 2006 and 2011 due to the emergence of pathogenic enterotropic reoviruses. Pathogenicity of reovirus isolates can be evaluated in several ways, including inoculation of day-old broiler chicks with low maternal reovirus antibody titers via the foot pad route or the oral and intratracheal route. Pathogenic reoviruses induce foot pad inflammation within 3 days of inoculation, and more pathogenic reoviruses are able to disseminate to and damage visceral organs. Only reovirus infections in young chickens result in disease due to age-related resistance to disease development. Reoviruses exist as many serotypes and subtypes with various degrees of interrelatedness. The earliest reovirus strains in the United States were antigenically related to each other and are referred to as S1133-like viruses, but in the 2000s, reoviruses emerged that were antigenically different from the S1133-like viruses. Virus neutralization assay using polyclonal antisera has been used to classify the emerging variant reoviruses into serogroups. The first reovirus vaccines were developed in the 1970s, and by the 1980s breeder vaccination programs were established that protected breeders, prevented vertical transmission of reovirus, and provided maternal immunity to the progeny during the crucial first 3 wk of life. With the emergence of antigenic variant reoviruses in the 2000s, vaccination programs using S1133-like vaccines became ineffective. The poultry industry has relied on vaccination with autogenous inactivated reovirus vaccines to alleviate losses due to viral arthritis/tenosynovitis and viral enteritis. Virus isolates used for autogenous vaccines must be updated regularly and are selected based on pathotype, serotype, or Sigma C (σC) genotype. Live attenuated S1133 vaccines are still used in breeder chickens for the priming effect, followed by one or more injections of the inactivated licensed and/or autogenous vaccines. The route of vaccination and the number of doses received by breeder chickens are very important for a sufficient antibody response. Intramuscular vaccination with inactivated vaccines elicits the highest antibody response, while subcutaneous vaccination with inactivated vaccines elicits a low antibody response. More recently, research has focused on development of alternative vaccines and vaccination strategies. An inactivated variant reovirus vaccine was developed that elicits protection against multiple variant serotypes, and experimental recombinant and subunit vaccines have been described and show potential. More research needs to be done to develop better vaccines, vaccination programs, and other control measures for preventing reovirus infection, transmission, and losses due to disease.


Milos Markis. Evaluation of Pathogenicity and Antigenicity of Avian Reoviruses and Disease Control Through Vaccination. Avian diseases. 2022 Dec;66(4):435-442

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PMID: 36715476

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