Extensive investigation of reticuloendotheliosis virus in the endangered Attwater's prairie chicken
Bohls, Ryan Lanier
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Reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) is a retrovirus that causes a neoplastic disease in a wide range of avian hosts including chickens, turkeys, and ducks. In 1993, REV was detected in the endangered Attwater's prairie chicken (Tympanachus cupido attwateri), a subspecies of Tympanachus cupido. Subsequent infections of this prairie chicken have been identified at captive breeding facilities throughout Texas. The implications of these infections have severely hindered repopulation efforts by these facilities. This study focused on investigating REV infection of captive Attwater'????????s prairie chicken in order to better understand the disease affecting these endangered birds. The overall objective was to develop a means of eliminating this threat to the repopulation of the Attwater's prairie chicken. Several aspects of virus infection were investigated. Reagents capable of recognizing prairie chicken IgY and viral gag polypeptides were developed for use in assays for detection of antibody responses and titration of viral concentrations. Sequencing data of genomes collected from isolates of Texas prairie chickens and domestic chickens, as well as three REV prototype viruses, were compared to determine relationships among strains and identify the potential origin of the REV infecting Attwater'????????s prairie chicken. Additionally, a flow cytometry technique of segregating the lymphocyte population from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) using a pan leukocyte monoclonal antibody was developed to more accurately measure changes within lymphocyte populations. This technique combined with intracellular labeling was used to deduce the target cells of REV infection. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was developed for greater sensitivity in detecting infection in birds than the previous method of single amplification PCR. This greater sensitivity results in earlier identification of the virus in infected birds, which allows for earlier removal of infected birds to minimize transmission of the virus throughout the flock. The sensitivity of the nested PCR diagnostic test was determined in a dose response pathogenesis study, which was conducted on hybrid greater/Attwater's prairie chicken to observe the experimental development of disease in these birds. Finally, a vaccine was developed using plasmid DNA with REV encoded genes and tested on naturally infected prairie chickens to determine its efficacy in reducing viral load. Although no reduction in viral load was detected, the vaccine may be effective in providing prophylactic protection in future studies.