Reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV) is an immunosuppressive and sometimes oncogenic avian retrovirus that establishes lifelong infection in a wide range of avian species. REV-infected wild birds roaming near at-risk captive flocks, such as is the case for the highly endangered Attwater's Prairie Chicken (APC; Tympanuchus cupido attwateri), could act as a reservoir for viral transmission. In wild birds, prevalence rates of REV are low and appearance of associated disease is uncommon. During 2016–17, nearly half of all captive adult APC mortality at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center captive breeding facility in Glen Rose, Texas, US was attributed to REV infection. The unusually high REV prevalence rate prompted us to survey for this virus in wild galliforms throughout the region. From 2016–17, 393 blood samples collected from two subspecies of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were tested for REV proviral DNA through amplification of the viral 3′ long terminal repeat and segments of the viral pol gene. In REV-affected counties, 5% (5/98) of native Rio Grande Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo intermedia) were identified as REV-positive. In addition, we detected REV in one of 62 Eastern Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) that had been imported during conservation efforts. To better determine protective measures, continued surveillance, including collection and genetic analysis of REV-infected samples, is necessary to identify sources of REV outbreaks in captive APC flocks.
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Vol. 55 • No. 3