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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Experimental Assessment of Domestic Poultry As Potential Biological Vectors and Reservoirs for Sars-Coronavirus

Authors
item Suarez, David
item Spackman, Erica
item Beck, Joan
item Tumpey, Terrence
item Swayne, David

Submitted to: Diseases at the Interface between Domestic Livestock and Wildlife Species
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2003
Publication Date: July 15, 2003
Citation: Suarez, D.L., Spackman, E., Beck, J.R., Tumpey, T., Swayne, D.E. 2003. Experimental assessment of domestic poultry as potential biological vectors and reservoirs for sars-coronavirus. Diseases at the Interface between Domestic Livestock and Wildlife Species.

Technical Abstract: A previously undescribed respiratory disease of humans emerged in Southeast Asia in late 2002 and rapidly spread to many other countries. The disease was named severe acute respiratory syndrome and included fever, a dry cough, and atypical pneumonia as some of the common clinical symptoms. The disease had a high case fatality rate, particularly in people over 65 years of age. With scientific research a coronavirus was isolated, the SARS virus, and associated with the human disease. However, this coronavirus did not appear to be closely related to any other coranaviruses that had been sequenced. Two possibilities for the origin of the virus was that a human virus that had circulated undetected or that it was an animal coronavirus that had spread from an unknown animal reservoir. It seems unlikely that humans and domestic animals were the original source of the virus, since both groups have been extensively surveyed for viruses, although the possibility of a mutation to current virulent form of the virus cannot be excluded. The more likely possibility is the SARS virus has spilled over from a wildlife reservoir into humans, with or without mutations, and resulted in an infectious and deadly virus. Many researchers in China are currently searching for clues as to the source of the virus, and likely candidates such as the civet have been identified. Efforts are ongoing in the U.S. and many foreign laboratories to examine the common domestic species for susceptibility to the virus. This is to determine if our domestic species are susceptible to these viruses both as an animal health issue, and to determine if our domestic animals pose a threat of being biological vectors of the virus, which is a food safety issue. Our laboratory is currently examining whether the common domestic poultry species, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and quail, are susceptible to the SARS virus. Initial observations are that the virus does not cause clinical illness in any of the groups of animals. Further studies are ongoing looking for evidence of viral shed, histopathologic changes, and seroconversion to the virus.

Last Modified: 11/26/2014
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