Parrot Bornavirus & Proventricular Dilatation Disease

Macaw on a branch

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.

Prevention:

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.

Vaccination 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.

Diagnosis:

Flying Macaw Bolivia

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.

Treatment:

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.

Epidemiology:

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 (it’s 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.

Vaccination 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.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about PDD and Parrot Borna Virus