Duck virus enteritis (DVE) is a contagious disease caused by herpesvirus in waterfowl populations. Recovered birds become carriers and shed the virus periodically. Reactivation of latent duck enteritis virus (DEV) has been implicated in outbreaks of DVE in domestic and migrating waterfowl populations. In this study, the sites for virus latency were determined in white Pekin ducks infected with the DEV-97 strain. At 3 wk postinfection, infectious virus was not detectable in tissues or cloacal swabs (CSs). At 7 and 9 weeks postinfection, the viral DNA was detected by polymerase chain reaction in the trigeminal ganglia (TG), suggesting that the virus is latent. Viral DNA was detected in the peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBL), spleen, thymus, bursa, and CSs only after in vitro cocultivation. In vivo virus reactivation was demonstrated when dexamethasone or a combination of dexamethasone and cyclophosphamide was inoculated in latently infected ducks. The reactivation of DEV occurred without any clinical evidence of the disease, but the virus was detected in PBL and CSs. We conclude from this study that DEV establishes latency in TG and lymphoid tissues including PBL.
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