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Psittacine Beak and Feather
Beak and Feather Disease - The
virus causing this disease is a member of the Circoviridae. The
molecular structure of the genome of the virus is roughly a 2,000 base,
circular, single stranded DNA. PBFD virus has a strong resemblance to
Porcine Circovirus as well as to a number of plant viruses such as the
Banana Bungy virus.
virus that causes PBFD can also affect the liver, brain, and immune system
causing diminished resistance to infections. Consequently premature death
usually occurs from these secondary bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral
Transmission of the virus from one individual
to another is primarily through direct contact, inhalation or ingestion
of aerosols, crop-feeding, infected fecal material, and feather dust. The
virus can also be transmitted via contaminated surfaces such as bird carriers,
feeding formula, utensils, food dishes, clothing, and nesting materials.
The viral particles, if not destroyed can remain viable in the environment
for months, long after the infected bird is gone.
Symptoms include irreversible loss of feathers,
shedding of developing feathers, development of abnormal feathers, new
pinched feathers, and loss of powder down. Other possible symptoms include
overgrown or abnormal beak, symmetrical lesions on the beak and occasionally
isolation of all diseased birds to halt the the spread of the disease. DNA
testing of all birds of susceptible species to rule out latent infection.
DNA testing of aviary equipment and environment to test for possible contamination.
known treatment. Experimental vaccines are being developed.
Skin biopsy, surgical biopsy of feather and
shaft, or PCR testing of blood, swab, and feather samples.
PBFD should be considered in any bird suffering from abnormal feather loss or development. A biopsy of the abnormal feathers including the calimus (shaft) of the feather can be examined for signs of virus. However, since the PBFD virus does not affect all feathers simultaneously this method of evaluating a sample may have a high degree of error. Additionally, birds with PBFD can have normal feathers and the PCR test is the most effective method available for detecting the virus in birds before feather lesions develop.
Some birds infected with the virus, test positive, but never show clinical signs. Other birds which test positive may develop an immune response sufficient enough to fight off the infection and test negative after 30-90 days. Therefore, it is recommended to re-test all PBFD positive birds 60-90 days after the initial testing was completed. If the second sample remains positive, the bird should be considered permanently infected and can be expected to show clinical symptoms of the disease.
To test an individual
bird a whole blood sample is recommended in conjunction with a cloacal swab
or feathers (especially abnormal or suspicious-looking feathers) when possible.
If the sample tests
Post-mortem samples include liver, spleen, kidney, feather samples in a sterile container; postmortem swabs may also be submitted.
Environmental testing using swabs of aviaries, countertops, fans, air-filters, nest-boxes, etc. is extremely effective in determining the presence of PBFD DNA in the environment.
*It is recommenced to submit both a whole blood and cloacal swab sample for analysis when possible.
Prior to shipping samples should be stored
at 4 C. (refrigerator). Samples must be shipped in a padded envelope or
box. Samples may be sent by regular mail, but overnight is recommended.
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