Evidence from nature: interspecies spread of heronhepatitis B viruses

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Science Article 8


Heron hepatitis B viruses (HHBVs) in three subspecies of free-living great blue herons(Ardea herodias) from Florida, USA, were identified and characterized. Eight of 13 sampleswere positive in all assays used, whereas sera from egrets, which are also members of the familyArdeidae, were negative in the same assays. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of viral DNAsequences from the preS/S region of previously reported and novel HHBV strains isolated fromcaptive grey herons (Germany) and free-ranging great blue herons (USA), respectively, revealed astrong conservation (95% sequence similarity) with two separate clusters, implying a commonancestor of all strains. Our data demonstrate for the first time that different subspecies of herons areinfected by HHBV and that these infections exist in non-captive birds. Phylogenetic analysisand the fact that the different heron species are geographically isolated populations suggestthat lateral transmission, virus adaptation and environmental factors all play a role in HHBVspreading and evolution.

Li Lin, Alexej Prassolov et al., Journal of General Virology (2005), 86, 1335-1342

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