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Correlation of avian bornavirus-specific antibodies and viral ribonucleic acid shedding with neurological signs and feather-damaging behaviour in psittacine birds
  1. Alexandra Fluck1,
  2. Dirk Enderlein2,
  3. Anne Piepenbring2,
  4. Ursula Heffels-Redmann2,
  5. Sybille Herzog3,
  6. Kay Pieper1,
  7. Christiane Herden4 and
  8. Michael Lierz2
  1. 1 Clinic for Birds Dr. Kay Pieper and Dr. Alexandra Fluck Leverkusen, Leverkusen, Germany
  2. 2 Clinic for Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish, Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
  3. 3 Institute of Virology, Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
  4. 4 Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
  1. E-mail for correspondence; fluck{at}


Parrot bornaviruses (PaBV) are the causative agents of proventricular dilatation disease in psittacine birds, but have also been linked to other clinical signs, including behavioural disorders and neurological signs. The aim of this study was to correlate PaBV infection in birds showing feather-damaging behaviour or neurological signs for which no other cause of disease could be identified. Psittacine birds presented to a private practice were divided into three groups: birds with neurological signs (n=28), birds showing feather-damaging behaviour (n=42) and birds presented for routine examinations (n=56). Swabs of crop and cloaca were collected and investigated for the presence of PaBV-RNA using real time RT-PCR. Additionally, serum samples were taken and examined for the presence of anti-PaBV antibodies by immunofluorescence test. PaBV infection was detected in one of the test systems in 40.5 per cent of all birds (n=126) investigated. In the clinically healthy birds (n=56), 19.6 per cent of the birds were positive in at least one of the PaBV tests, compared with 52.38 per cent of the feather-damaging (n=42) and 64.28 per cent of the neurologically diseased birds (n=28). Interestingly, the anti-PaBV antibody titres in birds with neurological signs were highest up to 1:20 480. High antibody titres (up to 1:5120) were also found in the feather-damaging group, whereas the birds of the control group, if PaBV positive, had only very low titres. Similarly, the highest viral load was found in the group of the neurologically diseased birds, followed by feather-damaging birds, whereas PaBV-positive birds in the control group demonstrated only low viral RNA shedding. A clear correlation between severity of clinical signs, amount of viral shedding and high levels of antibody titres was observed for most of the neurologically diseased birds and also for few birds with feather-damaging behaviour. For the first time, these results clearly indicate a correlation between PaBV infection and neurological signs in birds without gastrointestinal signs presented to the veterinarian in practice. It also may demonstrate a possible correlation with feather-damaging behaviour and anti-PaBV antibody presence. The antibody titre seems to represent a diagnostic tool to correlate clinical signs to PaBV as a cause.

  • avian bornavirus
  • neurological signs
  • feather-damaging behaviour
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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