Viral hepatitis in poultry is a complex disease syndrome caused by several viruses belonging to different families including avian hepatitis E virus (HEV), duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV), duck hepatitis A virus (DHAV-1, -2, -3), duck hepatitis virus Types 2 and 3, fowl adenoviruses (FAdV), and turkey hepatitis virus (THV). While these hepatitis viruses share the same target organ, the liver, they each possess unique clinical and biological features. In this article, we aim to review the common and unique features of major poultry hepatitis viruses in an effort to identify the knowledge gaps and aid the prevention and control of poultry viral hepatitis. Avian HEV is an Orthohepevirus B in the family Hepeviridae that naturally infects chickens and consists of three distinct genotypes worldwide. Avian HEV is associated with hepatitis-splenomegaly syndrome or big liver and spleen disease in chickens, although the majority of the infected birds are subclinical. Avihepadnaviruses in the family of Hepadnaviridae have been isolated from ducks, snow geese, white storks, grey herons, cranes, and parrots. DHBV evolved with the host as a noncytopathic form without clinical signs and rarely progressed to chronicity. The outcome for DHBV infection varies by the host's ability to elicit an immune response and is dose and age dependent in ducks, thus mimicking the pathogenesis of human hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections and providing an excellent animal model for human HBV. DHAV is a picornavirus that causes a highly contagious virus infection in ducks with up to 100% flock mortality in ducklings under 6 wk of age, while older birds remain unaffected. The high morbidity and mortality has an economic impact on intensive duck production farming. Duck hepatitis virus Types 2 and 3 are astroviruses in the family of Astroviridae with similarity phylogenetically to turkey astroviruses, implicating the potential for cross-species infections between strains. Duck astrovirus (DAstV) causes acute, fatal infections in ducklings with a rapid decline within 1–2 hr and clinical and pathologic signs virtually indistinguishable from DHAV. DAstV-1 has only been recognized in the United Kingdom and recently in China, while DAstV-2 has been reported in ducks in the United States. FAdV, the causative agent of inclusion body hepatitis, is a Group I avian adenovirus in the genus Aviadenovirus. The affected birds have a swollen, friable, and discolored liver, sometimes with necrotic or hemorrhagic foci. Histologic lesions include multifocal necrosis of hepatocytes and acute hepatitis with intranuclear inclusion bodies in the nuclei of the hepatocytes. THV is a picornavirus that is likely the causative agent of turkey viral hepatitis. Currently there are more questions than answers about THV, and the pathogenesis and clinical impacts remain largely unknown. Future research in viral hepatic diseases of poultry is warranted to develop specific diagnostic assays, identify suitable cell culture systems for virus propagation, and develop effective vaccines.
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Vol. 60 • No. 3