Rotavirus infection in a racing pigeon (Columba livia) in Great Britain during 2018

14 Oct 2020

Hansen, R. D. E., Stidworthy, M. F., Jones, R., Sangster, C. R., Ressel, L., APHA staff

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We report the first diagnosis of fatal rotavirus A (RVA) infection in a racing pigeon in Great Britain. In August 2018, a small group of racing pigeons (Columba livia) from one loft exhibited clinical signs of depression, anorexia and vomiting followed by death of two birds despite antimicrobial treatment and fluid therapy. One pigeon, a seven-month-old male, was submitted for postmortem examination. On gross examination, the pigeon was in reasonable body condition with gastrointestinal hyperaemia and green mucoid intestinal content. Histopathology revealed acute hepatocellular degeneration and necrosis with periportal lymphoplasmacytic inflammation in the liver, with ellipsoid hyperplasia and vacuolation in the spleen. Transmission and negative contrast electron microscopy of the liver revealed the presence of a rotavirus. PCR and sequencing confirmed RNA identity of 98.69 per cent with Australian and 100 per cent with German strains of a recently described RVA detected in racing pigeons in 2016 and 2017, respectively.