Rotavirus A Associated with Clinical Disease and Hepatic Necrosis in California Pigeons (Columba livia domestica)

Julia Blakey, Beate Crossley, John K. Rosenberger, Daniel Rejmanek, Milos Markis, Arthur Bickford, Mark Bland, Leslie Woods, H. L. Shivaprasad, Dayna Goldsmith, Simone Stoute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Retrospective analysis of pigeon necropsy submissions to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System from 2000 to 2018 revealed 14 submissions diagnosed with rotavirus A hepatic necrosis or "reoviruslike" viral hepatitis. Nine of the 14 submissions (64%) occurred in 2018. Submissions were racing pigeons and squab breeders from flocks with increased mortality. Juvenile and adult pigeons were submitted with a history of depression, diarrhea, regurgitation, labored breathing, and weakness. Flock morbidity peaked at 80% and mortality at 28%. The most consistent findings on postmortem examination were variably congested, mottled, and enlarged livers and spleens. Microscopically, mild to severe hepatic necrosis was observed with variable bile duct hyperplasia, sinusoidal congestion, hemosiderosis, and portal lymphoplasmacytic inflammation. Rotavirus A was detected in hepatocytes and inflammatory cells by immunohistochemistry. Negative-stain electron microscopy identified viral particles consistent with a member of Reoviridae in all negatively stained liver homogenates. Eleven cases were analyzed by reverse transcriptase-PCR targeting rotavirus A viral protein (VP) 6 and VP7 genes. Subsequent phylogenetic analysis of the VP6 and VP7 sequences compared to published Chinese, Nigerian, and German rotavirus A VP6 and VP7 sequences demonstrated the formation of two and three distinct clades, respectively. To the authors' knowledge, rotavirus A hepatic necrosis in pigeons has not been previously reported in the United States and represents a significant emerging disease for the pigeon industry due to the potential for high flock mortality and lost production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-658
Number of pages8
JournalAvian Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • California
  • hepatic necrosis
  • pigeon
  • reovirus
  • rotavirus A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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