33. PPMV Pheasant Pigeon 2005

42nd International Symposium on Diseases of Zoo and Wild Animals, Prague, Czech Republic, May 04-08-2005







1Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, PO Box 44069, Doha, State of Qatar; awwp.vet@alwabra.com

2Institut for Poultry Diseases, LMU-München, Sonnenstr. 18, 85764 Oberschleissheim, Germany


Extended Abstract



Avian Paramyxovirus-1 (APMV-1, Newcastle Disease Virus) is one of the most threatening pathogens for birds. In pigeons a specific type of Paramyxovirus 1 (PPMV-1) ermerged in the early 80´s and is now considered to be widely spread among domestic and wild pigeons in Europe. In this report a case of PPMV-1-infection in an adult female Pheasant Pigeon (Otidiphaps n. nobilis), which was housed at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation in the Middle East, is presented. The animal was presented lethargic with greenish feces; and slight ataxia. Testing for APMV-1 specific antibodies by hemagglutination inhibition test (HI) revealed antibody-titer of 1:256 for PPMV-1 and 1:64 for NDV, suggestive for an infection with PPMV-1. Histopathologic lesions and isolation of PPMV-1 from tissue samples confirmed the clinical diagnosis. As the mate and other close-by Pheasant Pigeons are still alive and did not show signs of the disease at any time, morbidity in Pheasant Pigeons appears to be variable. The source of the infection is still unknown, but further investigation is in progress.



Pigeon Paramyxovirus 1 (PPMV-1) was first recognized in the early 1980’s probably arisen from the Middle East (KALETA et al., 1985; GERLACH, 1994). Since then it has spread widely within domestic and wild pigeons in Europe and the rest of the world (RICHTER, 1983). Even though the virus is closely related to the Avian Paramyxovirus 1 (APMV-1, Newcastle Disease Virus) serological, biochemical and pathogenetic differences are evident (ALEXANDER et al., 1997; COLLINS et al., 1994; HEIL, 1984; GERLACH, 1994). In affected species unspecific symptoms like diarrhea, polyuria, paralysis of the legs, head tremors and torticollis are common. Various species like Cracids, Peacocks, Pheasants, Common Blackbird, House Sparrow, Barn Swallow, European Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Vinaceous Amazon and Eastern Rosella have been proven to be susceptible to the virus (SCHNEEGANSS and KORBEL, 1988). In the literature, an infection of Pheasant Pigeons could not be found.


Case Report

An adult, female Pheasant Pigeon presented lethargic with greenish feces. During catching, slight ataxia was noted. Medical history reported that 3 days earlier the 5-days-old nestling was found dead, but due to advanced autolysis necropsy did not reveal any macroscopic changes. The female was hospitalized and treated with chloramphenicol (850 mg per liter of drinking water) for suspected bacterial infection. During the first 5 days of hospitalization the clinical status of the bird seemed to improve, her appetite was good and she was active. At day 6 after onset of treatment central nervous signs were noted for the first time: The bird appeared to be walking in circles and bended her head towards the right side. Subsequent testing of a serum sample revealed antibody-titer of 1:256 for PPMV-1 and 1:64 for NDV. Blood biochemistry revealed elevated kidney values (UA: 0.959 mmol/l). The complete blood count showed a slight leucocytosis (WBC: 18.000/μl). E. coli, sensitive to enrofloxacin, was cultured from a cloacal swab. At that stage the treatment was changed to enrofloxacin (10 mg/kg BW po), nystatin (300,000 IU/kg BW po), and itraconazole (10 mg/kg BW po) plus twice a day tube feeding (10ml Verselaga Nutribird A21 per feeding). The central nervous symptoms increased until the bird was completely paralyzed four days after blood sampling. 10 days after initial treatment the pigeon was euthanized due to animal welfare reasons and potential infectious risk for other birds.


Results and Discussion

Subsequently the bird was subjected to a pathological investigation, taking samples for further bacteriological, virological and histopathological testing.

During autopsy the predominant change was a highly dilatated cloacae, that took up about one third of the coelomic cavity. Also, the food given 12h ante mortem was still partly present in the crop. No bacteria or fungus was cultured from swabs taken from the heart, kidneys and liver.

Histology revealed an encephalopathy with a slight non-purulent encephalitis, which suggested a viral infection and is in aggrement with findings of PPMV-1 infected pigeons (SCHMELLEKAMP et al., 2002).

For verifying a suggestive APMV-1 infection, parts of the kidney and pancreas were submitted in sterile, saline solution with 100 ppm enrofloxacin. Following standard protocols (92/66/EWG, 1992) an avian Paramyxovirus could be cultivated, that by embryo mortality could be classified as a mesogenic pathotype. However, testing the isolate by monoclonal antibodies (WERNER et al., 1999) an unusual pattern for PPMV-1 was observed. Further investigations will clariefy wether this specific isolate fulfill the definition of a PPMV-1 strain as indicated by serological results (FORSTER et al., 2002).


That the mate and other close-by Pheasant Pigeons are still alive and have not shown any signs of the disease, could indicate that Pheasant Pigeons are not very susceptible to develop clinical PPMV-1, and only individuals with a compromised immune system may develop the disease.

Therefore the decision was taken not to vaccinate contact animals as diagnostic procedures shouldn’t be limited for the security of other highly endangered bird species housed on grounds. The suspected birds have been put under close observation and quarantine standards. Furthermore the available inactivated vaccines are not yet tested in Pheasant Pigeons, therefore the protective effect is questionable and side effects may be possible.

The serologic testing of the remaining Pheasant Pigeon population, other bird species, as well as free ranging pigeons is currently in progress.


In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Newcastle disease is the most widespread avian viral disease, APMV-1 has been isolated from 12 different avian taxa either from organs of necropsied birds or from cloacal swabs of diseased birds (WERNERY and MANVELL, 2003). Isolations of PPMV-1 are not mentioned in this study.


One of the biggest remaining questions is the source of the infection. Various mynah species are known to be important reservoir hosts for Velogenic Viscerotropic Newcastle Disease (VVND) and other PMV strains (ERICKSON et al., 1975). Therefore local, non columbidae, bird species should also be screened for infection.



The authors would like to thank Prof. Dr. Helga Gerlach for doing the histopathologic evaluation of the deceased bird, also, Mr. Simon Bruslund Jensen, Bird Curator at Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, for great observation and cooperation in the attempt to find the source of the problem.



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SCHMELLEKAMP A, FORSTER K, SCHRIERS C and GRUND C (2002): Histolpathological alterations associated with sublethal PPMV-1 infections of pigeons. DVG XIII Tagung Vogelkrankheiten, München, 147-54.


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