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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » Exotic & Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #410777

Research Project: Control Strategies to Prevent and Respond to Diseases Outbreaks Caused by Avian Influenza Viruses

Location: Exotic & Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Research

Title: The duration of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus and Newcastle diseases virus infectivity in dried ornithological study skins

item Spackman, Erica
item STEPHENS, CHRISTOPHER - Boehringer Ingelheim
item PUSCH, ELIZABETH - Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) - United States

Submitted to: Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/19/2024
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Scientists that study birds use specimens called "study skins", which are similar to bird skins preserved by taxidermy but are not posed. Study skins are used to examine coloring, size, and physical features of different bird species over time. Study skin collections are often housed at museums and can be decades or even centuries old, so can have tremendous historical value and may be unique and irreplaceable. Scientists need to be able to share these specimens globally, but because the study skins are made from animal carcasses, there is a concern that the material could be contaminated with important diseases. Two major diseases that affect poultry and wild birds are bird flu, and Newcastle disease, which is another viral disease. Currently study skins are disinfected to prevent disease transmission, but the process can damage delicate specimens. Therefore a study was conducted to determine how long these viruses could remain infectious in a study skin by preparing them from chickens infected with bird flu or Newcastle disease. Samples were taken periodically and were tested for infectious virus by a highly sensitive method. It was found that even with high starting levels of virus, no infectious virus could be detected four weeks after skin preparation. This indicates that even new study skins are unlikely to serve as carriers of these viruses.

Technical Abstract: Ornithological study skins are specimens of avian skins that have been preserved by drying after removing the viscera and muscle. Because of the high value of study skins for scientific studies collections are shared among researchers. There is concern that study skins could be contaminated with high consequence diseases such as highly pathogenic avian influenza virus (HPAIV) or Newcastle disease virus (NDV). To mitigate risk, thermal or chemical treatment of study skins may be required before transfer, however the treatments can damage the specimens. Therefore, a study was conducted to evaluate the duration of infectivity of HPAIV and NDV in study skins prepared from infected chickens. Study skins were prepared from ten chickens infected with each virus. Skin and feather pulp samples were taken at the time of study skin preparation to establish starting titers. Mean starting titers in skins were 4.2log10 and 5.1log10 50% egg infectious doses (EID50) for HPAIV and NDV groups respectively, and were 6.7log10 EID50 for HPAIV, and 6.4log10 EID50 for NDV in feather pulp. Samples were collected at 2- and 4- weeks post skin preparation to quantify viable virus. At two weeks, the number of samples with detectable levels of virus and virus titers were substantially reduced in all samples. At four weeks neither viable HPAIV nor viable NDV could be detected in either tissue type.