Prevalence and pathology of west nile virus in naturally infected house sparrows, Western Nebraska, 2008

Valerie A. O'Brien, Carol U. Meteyer, William Reisen, Hon S. Ip, Charles R. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Nestling birds are rarely sampled in the field for most arboviruses, yet they may be important in arbovirus amplification cycles. We sampled both nestling and adult house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in western Nebraska for West Nile virus (WNV) or WNV-specific antibodies throughout the summer of 2008 and describe pathology in naturally infected nestlings. Across the summer, 4% of nestling house sparrows were WNV-positive; for the month of August alone, 12.3% were positive. Two WNV-positive nestlings exhibited encephalitis, splenomegaly, hepatic necrosis, nephrosis, and myocarditis. One nestling sparrow had large mural thrombi in the atria and ventricle and immunohistochemical staining of WNV antigen in multiple organs including the wall of the aorta and pulmonary artery; cardiac insufficiency thus may have been a cause of death. Adult house sparrows showed an overall seroprevalence of 13.8% that did not change significantly across the summer months. The WNV-positive nestlings and the majority of seropositive adults were detected within separate spatial clusters. Nestling birds, especially those reared late in the summer when WNV activity is typically greatest, may be important in virus amplification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)937-944
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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