A herpesviral disease of Rock Pigeons (Columba livia), called “inclusion body disease” or “inclusion body hepatitis,” was first described in the 1940s. The disease involves hepatic and splenic necrosis with associated intranuclear inclusion bodies and occurs primarily in young squabs. A similar herpesviral disease occurs in falcons and owls. Serologic and restriction endonuclease digestion studies indicate that herpesviruses from pigeons, falcons, and owls are very closely related and that most reported cases of disease in falcons and owls involve prior documented or possible ingestion of pigeons. These findings led to the hypothesis that an endemic herpesvirus of pigeons may be causing disease in falcons and owls. In order to test this hypothesis, we sequenced a fragment of the herpesviral DNA polymerase gene from naturally infected owls, falcons, and pigeons with inclusion body disease collected between 1991 and 2006. Sequences from all three sources were almost identical, and we therefore propose that the usual agent of inclusion body hepatitis in owls and falcons is columbid herpesvirus 1.
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Vol. 44 • No. 2