Seasonal fluctuation of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) infection in wild Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans)
journal contributionposted on 2020-01-01, 00:00 authored by Hanne MartensHanne Martens, Helena Stokes, Mathew BergMathew Berg, Ken WalderKen Walder, Andy Bennett
Understanding patterns of pathogen emergence can help identify mechanisms involved in transmission dynamics. Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) poses a major threat world-wide to wild and captive parrots. Yet data from wild birds on seasonal fluctuations in prevalence and infection intensity, and thereby the potential high-risk times for virus transmission, have been lacking. We screened wild Crimson Rosellas (Platycercus elegans) for BFDV in blood and cloacal swabs. Prevalence in blood samples and cloacal swabs, as well as viral load varied with Julian date and in blood, were highest after the breeding season. Breeding birds had lower viral load and lower BFDV prevalence in blood than non-breeding birds (10.1% prevalence in breeding vs. 43.2% in non-breeding birds). BFDV prevalence was much higher in younger (<3 years) than older (≥3 years) birds for both blood samples (42.9% vs. 4.5%) and cloacal swabs (56.4% vs. 12.3%). BFDV status in blood and cloacal samples was not correlated within individuals. We show that, at least in P. elegans, BFDV infection seems to occur year-round, with seasonal changes in prevalence and load found in our samples. Our analyses suggest that the seasonal changes were associated primarily with the breeding season. We also discuss age and sex as important predictors of BFDV infection.