Skip to main content

Emergence of reticuloendotheliosis virus in pigeons in Guangdong Province, Southern China


Reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV), an important immunosuppressive pathogen, has many hosts, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and wild birds. Clinically, REV may lead to increased susceptibility to other pathogens, resulting in serious tissue damage (especially tumors) and the death of its host. In this study, we encountered a disease outbreak resulting in a large number of deaths of pigeons in Guangdong Province, Southern China. Histopathological analysis revealed apparent tumor-like lesions in multiple organs of pigeons. PCR assays for detection of tumor-associated pathogens (REV, avian leukosis virus, and Marek’s disease virus) in poultry revealed the presence of REV sequences only. Moreover, fowlpox virus (FPV) with an insertion of REV long terminal repeat (LTR) sequences was also considered, but it was excluded using a specific PCR assay. To gain more genetic information, two full-length REV genome sequences were determined and found to have the highest nucleotide sequence similarity (99.9 %) and the closest genetic relationship to a vaccine strain (MD-2) and had a more distant genetic relationship (94.3 %) to a duck-origin strain (ATCC-VR775). To confirm the presence of REVs in pigeons, specific-pathogen-free (SPF) chickens and healthy pigeons were inoculated with microfiltered tumor tissue homogenates and were found to be susceptible to infection with REV. To our knowledge, this is the first report of REV in pigeons, and the data suggest that pigeons may be the natural host of REV.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Bohls RL, Linares JA, Gross SL, Ferro PJ, Silvy NJ, Collisson EW (2006) Phylogenetic analyses indicate little variation among reticuloendotheliosis viruses infecting avian species, including the endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken. Virus Res 119:187–194

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Niewiadomska AM, Gifford RJ (2013) The extraordinary evolutionary history of the reticuloendotheliosis viruses. PLoS Biol 11:e1001642

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Hu SS, Lai MM, Wong TC, Cohen RS, Sevoian M (1981) Avian reticuloendotheliosis virus: characterization of genome structure by heteroduplex mapping. J Virol 37:899–907

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. Cheng Z, Shi Y, Zhang L, Zhu G, Diao X, Cui Z (2007) Occurrence of reticuloendotheliosis in Chinese partridge. J Vet Med Sci 69:1295–1298

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Drew ML, Wigle WL, Graham DL, Griffin CP, Silvy NJ, Fadly AM, Witter RL (1998) Reticuloendotheliosis in captive greater and Attwater’s prairie chickens. J Wildl Dis 34:783–791

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Gopal S, Manoharan P, Kathaperumal K, Chidambaram B, Divya KC (2012) Differential detection of avian oncogenic viruses in poultry layer farms and Turkeys by use of multiplex PCR. J Clin Microbiol 50:2668–2673

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Payne LN (1998) Retrovirus-induced disease in poultry. Poult Sci 77:1204–1212

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Schat KA, Gonzalez J, Solorzano A, Avila E, Witter RL (1976) A lymphoproliferative disease in Japanese Quail. Avian Dis 20:153–161

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Zavala G, Cheng S, Barbosa T, Haefele H (2006) Enzootic reticuloendotheliosis in the endangered Attwater’s and greater prairie chickens. Avian Dis 50:520–525

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Cui Z, Zhuang G, Xu X, Sun A, Su S (2010) Molecular and biological characterization of a Mareks disease virus field strain with reticuloendotheliosis virus LTR insert. Virus Genes 40:236–243

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. Hertig C, Coupar BE, Gould AR, Boyle DB (1997) Field and vaccine strains of fowlpox virus carry integrated sequences from the avian retrovirus, reticuloendotheliosis virus. Virology 235:367–376

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Isfort RJ, Witter R, Kung HJ (1994) Retrovirus insertion into herpesviruses. Trends Microbiol 2:174–177

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Barbosa T, Zavala G, Cheng S, Villegas P (2007) Full genome sequence and some biological properties of reticuloendotheliosis virus strain APC-566 isolated from endangered Attwater’s prairie chickens. Virus Res 124:68–77

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Bao KY, Zhang YP, Zheng HW, Lv HC, Gao YL, Wang JF, Gao HL, Qi XL, Cui HY, Wang YQ, Ren XG, Wang XM, Liu CJ (2015) Isolation and full-genome sequence of two reticuloendotheliosis virus strains from mixed infections with Marek’s disease virus in China. Virus Genes 50:418–424

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Grimes TM, Purchase HG (1973) Reticuloendotheliosis in a duck. Aust Vet J 49:466–471

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Deng X, Qi X, Wu G, Gao Y, Qin L, Wang Y, Gao H, Wang X (2012) Construction and characterization of the infectious clone of reticuloendotheliosis virus carrying a genetic marker. Virus Res 167:146–151

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. Wang G, Wang Y, Yu L, Jiang Y, Liu J, Cheng Z (2012) New pathogenetic characters of reticuloendotheliosis virus isolated from Chinese partridge in specific-pathogen-free chickens. Microb Pathog 53:57–63

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. Awad AM, Abd El-Hamid HS, Abou Rawash AA, Ibrahim HH (2010) Detection of reticuloendotheliosis virus as a contaminant of fowl pox vaccines. Poult Sci 89:2389–2395

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  19. Fadly A, Garcia MC (2006) Detection of reticuloendotheliosis virus in live virus vaccines of poultry. Dev Biol (Basel) 126:301–305

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Li J, Dong X, Yang C, Li Q, Cui Z, Chang S, Zhao P, Yu K, Yang H (2015) Isolation, identification, and whole genome sequencing of reticuloendotheliosis virus from a vaccine against Marek’s disease. Poult Sci 94:643–649

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Liu Q, Zhao J, Su J, Pu J, Zhang G, Liu J (2009) Full genome sequences of two reticuloendotheliosis viruses contaminating commercial vaccines. Avian Dis 53:341–346

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Woźniakowski G, Mamczur A, Samorek-Salamonowicz E (2015) Common occurrence of Gallid herpesvirus-2 with reticuloendotheliosis virus in chickens caused by possible contamination of vaccine stocks. J Appl Microbiol 118:803–808

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Wei K, Sun Z, Zhu S, Guo W, Sheng P, Wang Z, Zhao C, Zhao Q, Zhu R (2012) Probable congenital transmission of reticuloendotheliosis virus caused by vaccination with contaminated vaccines. PLoS One 7:e43422

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. Ju SD, Dong X, Zhao P, Li Y, Meng FF, Sun P, Dong XL, Gao S, Cui ZZ (2014) Isolation, identification and diversity study of Escherichia coli from broilers infected with immunosuppressive viruses. Acta Veterinaria et Zootechnica Sinica 45:1858–1865

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank three anonymous reviewers for the critical review. This work was supported by grants (Nos. 2012B040302010, 2013B06180003, 2014B040404061 and 2015B050501007) from Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shao-Lun Zhai.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Animal use and handling protocols were approved by the ethical and ethics commission (Institute of Animal Health, Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, China).

Additional information

S.-L. Zhai, S.-N. Chen and T. Lin contributed equally to this study.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zhai, SL., Chen, SN., Lin, T. et al. Emergence of reticuloendotheliosis virus in pigeons in Guangdong Province, Southern China. Arch Virol 161, 2007–2011 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Reticuloendotheliosis
  • Reticuloendotheliosis virus
  • First report
  • Pigeons
  • South China