Open Access Open Badges Research article

Phylogenetic analysis of Columbid herpesvirus-1 in rock pigeons, birds of prey and non-raptorial birds in Poland

Grzegorz J Woźniakowski1*, Elżbieta Samorek-Salamonowicz1, Piotr Szymański2, Piotr Wencel3 and Marek Houszka4

Author Affiliations

1 National Veterinary Research Institute (NVRI), Department of Poultry Viral Diseases, Partyzantow 57 Avenue, Pulawy, 24-100, Poland

2 Wild Animal Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre, Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences 55–106 Zawonia, Zlotowek 1, Poland

3 Avi Expert Private Veterinary Practice, Gajowa 1, Lublin, 20-827, Poland

4 Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Department of Pathology, CK, Norwida 31, Wroclaw, 50-375, Poland

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BMC Veterinary Research 2013, 9:52  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-9-52

Published: 21 March 2013



The identity of herpesviruses isolated in Europe from domestic pigeons (Columbid herpesvirus-1 - CoHV-1) as well as falcons and owls remains unknown. All these herpesviruses are antigenically and genetically related. The falcons and owls are thought to have become infected during the ingestion of pigeon meat thus suggesting the virus’s capacity to infect a wide range of hosts. The aim of the conducted study was to detect the occurrence of CoHV-1 and estimating the similarities and differences in the DNA-dependent DNA polymerase gene of herpesviruses isolated from domestic pigeons, birds of prey and non-raptorial free-ranging birds in Poland.


The study has shown the presence of CoHV-1 in 20.4% (18/88) in the examined birds. In case of one CoHV-1, infected Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), neurological signs were observed. Nucleotide sequencing of the DNA-dependent DNA polymerase gene, showed a high similarity among Polish strains (100%), independently from the species of the affected birds. Only one compared CoHV-1 strain - KP 21/23 originating from Germany showed a slightly lower similarity at a level of 99.1%. Further analysis has shown the identity of DNA-dependent DNA polymerase of CoHV-1 strains and other herpesviruses present in poultry as well as other birds ranged from 35.4 to 44.9%. Interestingly CoHV-1 infection was also confirmed for the first time in four non-raptorial birds.


The current study has shown a high similarity of CoHV-1 strains and the possible transmission of herpesviruses between domestic rock pigeons and free-ranging birds including raptors and non-raptorial birds. Further studies focused on cloning and the analysis of the whole CoHV-1 genome which is needed to explain the role of the observed similarities and differences between field strains of columbid herpesviruses.

Columbid herpesvirus-1; Phylogenetic analysis; Real-time PCR; Sequence analysis; DNA-dependent polymerase