Although the order Passeriformes contains approximately half of the avian species here are only few reports of herpesviruses (HVs) in free-living European passerine birds.1,2 The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of HVs in free-living passerine birds. Free-living passerine birds were captured into the mist nets during autumn migration in 2014 in Slovenia. A total of 294 cloacal swabs from 29 different songbird species were collected. The majority (244/294 [83%]) of samples were from ten different species: Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (30 [10%]), common blackbird (Turdus merula) (30 [10%]), common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) (30 [10%]), song trush (Turdus philomelos) (27 [9%]), dunnock (Prunella modularis) (30 [10%]), European robin (Erithacus rubecula) (30 [10%]), Eurasian penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus) (30 [10%]), Eurasian reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) (14 [5%]), great tit (Parus major) (11 [4%]) and Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus) (12 [4%]). The remaining samples were collected from a variety of other species (50/294 [17%]). For the detection of HVs, a nested PCR that targets a region of the HV DNA polymerase gene was used.3 HV was detected in one common blackbird (1/294 [0.34%]). The investigated part of the virus genome was the most similar (76%) to Psittacid herpesvirus-1 (PsHV1). Phylogenetic analysis showed that identified HV is related to the avian and mammal alphaherpesviruses. The present study determined the low prevalence of HVs (1/294 [0.34%]) in free-living passerine birds in Slovenia. However, the HV detected in common blackbird is a possibly new HV of passerine birds.
1. Widen F, Das Neves CG, Ruiz-Fons F, Reid HW, Kuiken T, Gavier-Widen D, Kaleta EF. Herpesvirus infections. In: Gavier-Widen D, Duff JP, Meredith A (eds.). Infectious Diseases of Wild Mammals and Birds in Europe. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd; 2012. p. 3–36.
2. Wozniakowski GJ, Samorek-Salamonowicz E, Szymanski P, Wencel P Houszka M. Phylogenetic analysis of Columbid herpesvirus-1 in rock pigeons, birds of prey and non-raptorial birds in Poland. BMC Vet Res. 2013; 9:52–61.
3. VanDevanter DR, Warrener P, Bennett L, Schultz ER, Coulter S, Garber RL, Rose TM. Detection and analysis of diverse herpesviral species by consensus primer PCR. J Clin Microbiol. 1996;34(7):1666–1671.