This paper describes a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based method performed on blood samples and intestinal content to detect subclinical pigeon circovirus (PiCV) infection in live pigeons. In addition, two sets of primers (primer set 1 and 2), designed in two different regions of the viral genome, were used to provide evidence of possible differences in PCR responses. Blood and intestinal content samples were randomly collected from a total of 50 apparently healthy meat pigeons, aged 1 to 5 wk, which came from central Italy. Samples of primary lymphoid organs were also collected. Results showed a high level of PiCV infection, although clinical signs were not present. The results obtained with the two sets of primers showed that primer set 2 was able to detect a higher number of PCR-positive pigeons (45 of 50 pigeons) than primer set 1 (11 of 50 pigeons). In both cases an increase in positive results with pigeon age indicates that the major direction of transmission is likely horizontal. In these circumstances feces can play an important epidemiologic role, as supported by the consistent circovirus detection in intestinal content. The high sensitivity of this PCR test, which is able to detect very low amounts of viral DNA (5.5 × 10−3 fg of plasmid containing the cloned PiCV genome), makes it suitable for possible application as an epidemiologic tool for identifying virus carriers for subsequent removal from lofts.
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Vol. 49 • No. 3