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Rotavirus infection in a racing pigeon (Columba livia) in Great Britain during 2018
  1. Rowena Dawn Ellen Hansen1,
  2. Mark Frederick Stidworthy2,
  3. Richard Jones3,
  4. Cheryl Rae Sangster2 and
  5. Lorenzo Ressel4
  6. APHA staff
  1. 1Department of Avian Virology, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Addlestone, UK
  2. 2Department of Pathology, International Zoo Veterinary Group, Keighley, West Yorkshire, UK
  3. 3Avian Veterinary Services, Gadbrook Business Centre, Cheshire, UK
  4. 4Department of Veterinary Anatomy Physiology and Pathology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rowena Dawn Ellen Hansen; Rowena.Hansen{at}


We report the first diagnosis of fatal rotavirus A (RVA) infection in a racing pigeon in Great Britain. In August 2018, a small group of racing pigeons (Columba livia) from one loft exhibited clinical signs of depression, anorexia and vomiting followed by death of two birds despite antimicrobial treatment and fluid therapy. One pigeon, a seven-month-old male, was submitted for postmortem examination. On gross examination, the pigeon was in reasonable body condition with gastrointestinal hyperaemia and green mucoid intestinal content. Histopathology revealed acute hepatocellular degeneration and necrosis with periportal lymphoplasmacytic inflammation in the liver, with ellipsoid hyperplasia and vacuolation in the spleen. Transmission and negative contrast electron microscopy of the liver revealed the presence of a rotavirus. PCR and sequencing confirmed RNA identity of 98.69 per cent with Australian and 100 per cent with German strains of a recently described RVA detected in racing pigeons in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

  • pigeon
  • rotaviruses
  • pathology
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  • contributed equally.

  • Collaborators APHA staff: David Everest, Rowena Hansen, Hannah Davies, Akbar Dastjerdi, Scott Reid

  • Contributors RDEH: corresponding author. DJE - Negative contrast stain analysis and imaging and production of manuscript. RDEH: customer liaison, policy contribution regarding pigeon sampling and analytical planning. HD: executed molecular assays. AD: responsible for molecular assay and analysis. SMR: laboratory liaison and analytical planning. RJ: submission of sample and discussion on further pigeon submission policy. MFS: discussion regarding pathology and production of histology image. CRS: discussion on pathology and necropsy of sample. LR: analysis of ultrathin sections report and image. All authors: input into manuscript and further editing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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