Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 March 2007
Avian pneumovirus (APV; officially known as turkey rhinotracheitis virus) is an emergent pathogen of birds in the USA that results in upper respiratory tract disease in turkeys. Six years after the first outbreak in the USA, the disease continues to ravage turkey flocks, primarily in the state of Minnesota. From 1997 to 2000, the industry recorded losses estimated at US$15 million per annum. Researchers have developed sensitive diagnostic techniques, including the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and the reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction, which, when used together, are highly sensitive in detecting APV outbreaks in commercial turkey flocks. Phylogenetic analysis of the nucleotide and predicted amino acid sequence of 15 US viruses isolated between 1996 and 2000 demonstrated that the US viruses are relatively homogenous but different from the European APV subgroups A and B, resulting in the classification of US isolates into subgroup C. Infectious APV was isolated from sentinel waterfowls placed close to an infected commercial turkey farm and from wild Canada geese captured in Minnesota, suggesting that free-ranging birds may be involved in the spread of APV. Current efforts to prevent and control the infection include improving management and biosecurity practices and developing attenuated live and deletion mutant vaccines capable of conferring protection.