A healthy immune system is a cornerstone for poultry production. Any factor diminishing the immune responses will affect production parameters and increase cost. There are numerous factors, infectious and noninfectious, causing immunosuppression (IS) in chickens. This paper reviews the three viral diseases that most commonly induce IS or subclinical IS in chickens: Marek's disease virus (MDV), chicken infectious anemia virus (CIAV), and infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV), as well as the interactions among them. MDV-induced IS (MDV-IS) affects both humoral and cellular immune responses. It is very complex, poorly understood, and in many cases underdiagnosed. Vaccination protects against some but not all aspects of MDV-IS. CIAV induces apoptosis of the hemocytoblasts resulting in anemia, hemorrhages, and increased susceptibility to bacterial infections. It also causes apoptosis of thymocytes and dividing T lymphocytes, affecting T helper functions, which are essential for antibody production and cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) functions. Control of CIAV is based on vaccination of breeders and maternal antibodies (MAbs). However, subclinical IS can occur after MAbs wane. IBDV infection affects the innate immune responses during virus replication and humoral immune responses as a consequence of the destruction of B-cell populations. Vaccines with various levels of attenuation are used to control IBDV. Interactions with MAbs and residual virulence of the vaccines need to be considered when designing vaccination plans. The interaction between IBDV, CIAV, and MDV is critical although underestimated in many cases. A proper control of IBDV is a must to have proper humoral immune responses needed to control CIAV. Equally, long-term control of MDV is not possible if chickens are coinfected with CIAV, as CIAV jeopardizes CTL functions critical for MDV control.
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Vol. 62 • No. 3