Current epidemiology and co-infections of avian immunosuppressive and neoplastic diseases in chicken flocks in central China

The avian immunosuppressive and neoplastic diseases caused by Marek’s disease virus (MDV), avian leucosis virus (ALV), and reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) are seriously harmful to the global poultry industry. In recent years, particularly in 2020–2022, outbreaks of such diseases in chicken flocks frequently occurred in China. Herein, we collected live diseased birds from 30 poultry farms, out of 42 farms with tumour-bearing chicken flocks distributed in central China, to investigate the current epidemiology and co-infections of these viruses. The results showed that in individual diseased birds, the positive infection rates of MDV, ALV, and REV were 69.5% (203/292), 14.4% (42/292), and 4.7% (13/277), respectively, while for the flocks, the positive infection rates were 96.7% (29/30), 36.7% (11/30), and 20% (6/30), respectively. For chicken flocks, monoinfection of MDV, ALV, or REV was 53.3% (16/30), 3.3% (1/30), and 0% (0/30), respectively, but a total of 43.3% (13/30) co-infections was observed, which includes 23.3% (7/30) of MDV+ALV, 10.0% (3/30) of MDV+REV, and 10.0% (3/30) of MDV+ALV+REV co-infections. Interestingly, no ALV+REV co-infection or REV monoinfection was observed in the selected poultry farms. Our data indicate that the prevalence of virulent MDV strains, partially accompanied with ALV and/or REV co-infections, is the main reason for current outbreaks of avian neoplastic diseases in central China, providing an important reference for the future control of disease.

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