In winter 2003–04, large numbers of budgerigars (Mellopsitacus undulatus) and cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) fell ill and died in a large parrot-breeding aviary in Slovakia. In budgerigars, the disease outbreak occurred at the age of 2–3 weeks; cockatiels died within their first 7 days of life. In budgerigars, symptoms of the disease included delayed growth, tremor, darkish discoloration of skin, quill bleeding, and feathering defects. cockatiels often died without any symptoms and with a full crop; feathering defects occurred sporadically. Electron microscopy with negative staining of aqueous lysates of the affected skin and of bleeding quills showed isolated or clustered polyomavirus particles 45–50 nm in size. Long filamentous forms of the virus were also found in virion clusters of skin lysates from the budgerigars. In ultrathin sections through the pathologically altered skin tissue of budgerigars, virus particles were present in both nuclei and cytoplasm of epidermal cells, often in crystalline form. In infected cells, enlarged nuclei showed an extensive chromatin margination. On the DNA level, presence of a polyomavirus infection was conclusively proved by the polymerase chain reaction using avian polyomavirus (APV)-specific primers. A sequence analysis of the gene encoding viral protein (VP)1 and of the combined region for VP2 and VP3 proteins revealed a previously undescribed synonymous mutation in this isolate. This report extended the knowledge of the area of APV occurrence and of the spectrum of hosts in the context of genomic and morphologic variability of APV isolates.

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