Commercial white leghorn egg layer flocks being used to produce fertile eggs for human vaccine production exhibited dramatically low peaks in egg production, two to four times higher than normal weekly mortality, and high numbers of cull, nonlaying birds after the onset of sexual maturity. These lower production characteristics could not be associated with management-related problems. Gross lesions of cull and fresh dead birds necropsied showed approximately 60% lacked ovarian activity and had lesions of a bacterial bursitis or synovitis, whereas the other 40% had tumors of the viscera but not of the bursa of Fabricius. Histologic examination of tumor-containing tissues showed lesions typical of myelocytomatosis. The diagnosis of myeloid leukosis was confirmed by the isolation of a recombinant avian leukosis virus (ALV) containing the LTR of subgroup J and the envelope of subgroup B ALV. A positive polymerase chain reaction with primers specific for the 3′ untranslated region LTR confirmed the presence of LTR of ALV-J. The source of infection with this recombinant ALV was not determined; however, it is likely that commingling of the day-old egg-type chicks with ALV-J–infected meat-type chicks in a common hatchery had contributed to this outbreak.
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