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Avian Medicine – Closing in on a Treatment for Proventricular Dilation Disease

Patagonian ConuresA cure for Proventricular Dilation Disease (PDD), the bane of parrot-owners, has eluded veterinarians for over 30 years.  In 2008, Avian Bornavirus (ABV) was indentified as a probable cause of the fatal neurological disorder.  When I wrote about that discovery (please see article below), I hoped that more good news would follow…today I’m happy to file this promising update.

PDD Facts

PDD is a major concern because it is invariably fatal and infects over 50 species of common and rare birds in both the wild and captivity.

Birds afflicted with PDD suffer damage to the nerves that supply organs in the digestive system.  Food is not digested and accumulates in the proventriculus (first part of the stomach); the buildup of food causes the proventriculus to dilate (which explains the disease’s name).  Less commonly, nerves in the brain and spine may also be impacted.

Typical symptoms of PDD include weight loss, regurgitation of undigested food and, on occasion, loss of balance and coordination.

Current and Future Research

Working with ducks and Patagonian Conures, Texas A&M University researchers have conclusively established that ABV, the virus implicated in the disease in 2008, is indeed the cause of PDD.

Armed with this information, they can now begin to study the virus’ biology and the use of anti-virals and anti-inflmmatories as possible preventative measures and treatments.  Future research will also focus on the role of raccoon droppings, which have been proposed as a possible source of Avian Bornavirus. 

Further Reading

Please see Breaking Research News: PDD Virus Identified for more info on the first major break in this mystery.

You can read more about the current PDD research on the Texas A&M University Website.


Patagonian Conure image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Hedwig Storch

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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