Skip to main content

Parrot Bornavirus & Proventricular Dilatation Disease


This is a significant cause of disease and death in captive and some wild birds. Our major task is to learn more about this virus and to seek new methods to prevent, diagnose, and treat the diseases caused by this virus.


The Psittacine Bornaviruses are a family of viruses found worldwide. Since their discovery in 2008, it has become clear that they are common in captive parrots but do not necessarily cause disease. When disease does develop it can take the form of Proventricular Dilatation, blindness, heart or perhaps even kidney disease. The virus is not highly resistant to environmental degradation and Dr Jeffrey Musser’s studies have shown that it can be readily destroyed by drying. It also appears to be susceptible to destruction by commonly employed disinfectants.

Flying Macaw BoliviaVaccination against this virus is being studied at the Schubot Center at the present time. It is too soon to say whether this will be successful but preliminary studies with some innovative new vaccines have yielded encouraging results. These studies are being undertaken by Dr Susan Payne and her graduate student Samer Hameed. Dr Musser’s graduate student Tariq Hantash is also looking into the possibility of an oral vaccine.


There are two ways to diagnose viral infections. One is to look for the virus itself, the other is to determine if a bird has made antibodies to the virus. We have been able to detect Bornaviruses in bird droppings. Dr Heatley’s studies have shown that the virus infects the bird’s kidneys and hence is spread in the urine (The white portion of a bird dropping). Not all birds however develop kidney infections and hence do not always shed the virus in their urine. Thus this is not an ideal test. We have been investigating antibody-based tests for detecting infected birds and are obtaining encouraging results with modern rapid testing technology. Watch this space for new results as we get them.


Bornaviruses are the cause of much suffering in birds and it is essential that we seek ways of treating sick birds. Both Dr Hoppes and Dr Musser are investigating drugs that might destroy the avian bornavirus or somehow stop the progress of the disease. Results to date are mixed but we will continue to support this approach.


While disease in captive birds is our main focus, we have also investigated the presence of these viruses in wild birds. Thus Waterbird bornaviruses occur in about 25% of mute swans, 15% of geese and 10% of wild ducks in this country (Its also present in domestic ducks). Current evidence suggests that these viruses do not transfer between waterbirds and parrots. There is no evidence that the avian bornaviruses can infect mammals.

Schubot Center researchers have been studying this disease and the virus that causes it for many years. This web site is designed to keep you up-to-date with our recent research information.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about PDD and Parrot Borna Virus

Program Overview
  • The BRIDGE program is an intensive mentored research program from June 1, 2016 to August 1, 2016
  • BRIDGE program applicants should be enrolled at colleges and universities within the United States who are from an underrepresented or underserved or disadvantaged populations
  • Up to 6 BRIDGE program participants will be selected
  • BRIDGE participants will receive the following:
  • Possible funding for travel to present at a scientific conference for outstanding projects
    • Complementary on-site dorm housing from June 1, 2016 to August 1, 2016 that is within walking distance of the TAMU CVM campus
    • Complementary parking
    • A monthly stipend of $1,200 for 2 months
  • Possible funding for travel to present at a scientific conference for outstanding projects

Applicants must be:

  • Current junior or senior undergraduate students in good academic standing at a college or university in the Unites States
  • Committed to live in College Station, TX from June 1, 2016 to August 1, 2016* Note housing will be provided with acceptance to the program.
  • Committed to actively engaging in a research project for the duration of the 8-week program.
  • Belong to one of the following eligible underrepresented or underserved groups:
    • Individuals from an underrepresented or underserved ethnic or racial group
    • Individuals who are the first generation in their family to go to college
    • Individuals who for socio-economic, cultural, or educational reasons have not had access to high quality, cutting edge research experiences that are critical in deciding to pursue careers in biomedical research or veterinary medicine.
Field Trips
  • Applicants must complete the [linked or attached application form]

Field Trips For the Bridge Program

Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, MD Anderson Science Park (Bastrop, TX)

Students observe aspects of laboratory animal care (primates) and learn about the importance of animals in biomedical research. This visit includes tours of four primate colonies: rhesus, chimpanzee, owl monkey, and squirrel monkeys. After a lunch meeting with the veterinarians, students tour the pathology support laboratories.


Center for Biodefense & Emerging Infectious Diseases, University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX)

Students meet and have lunch with several scientists conducting research on zoonotic pathogens. The students also get a "virtual" tour of a BSL-4 laboratory. Students have the opportunity to learn about animal disease research and its impact on humans and animals.


Comparative Cardiovascular Laboratory, Texas Heart Institute (Houston, TX)

Students visit with scientists and tour the animal facilities at THI, where translational research on ventricular assist devices and vascular stents is conducted. They also have an opportunity to view cardiovascular surgery from the observation deck of the operating suite.

Regenerative Medicine Research, Wafic Said Molecular Cardiology Research Lab & Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology, Texas Heart Institute (Houston, TX)

The mission of the Wafic Said Cardiology Research lab is “to improve the treatments available for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease by combining basic research aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms of heart disease with the discovery of innovative small molecule and cell-based therapeutics.” Students will be exposed to cutting edge research

"The Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology is a new collaboration between the Texas Heart Institute and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Led by Dr. Doris A. Taylor, the Center draws from expertise at both institutions to position it as a world leader in adult stem cell research, organ transplantation, and personalized medicine. The Center includes scientists, engineers, physicians, veterinarians, and business managers from both organizations, other colleges affiliated with Texas A&M University, and affiliates in the Texas Medical Center."


Texas A&M Institute for Preclinical Studies (TAMU)

Tour of TIPS, a state-of-the-art facility for GLP-compliant large animal preclinical studies. Their mission is to “fosters multi-disciplinary service, research, and education. The primary focus of TIPS is to develop research activities and provide core services in the areas of device development, preclinical studies under Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), and biomedical imaging. In addition, the educational mission of TIPS centers around the advanced training of graduate and professional students within relevant scientific and engineering disciplines, as well as support the needs of degree programs that train students and industry personnel on regulatory issues within biotechnology.”

Students observe surgery suites, animal housing, and advanced imaging technologies.