Hepatitis B Virus in Herons

Heron Hepatitis B Virus was discovered[1] in 1988 in sera of grey herons (Ardea cinerea), that were living in a German zoo. The virus shares about 78% of its genes with Duck Hepatitis B Virus[2], but Heron Hepatitis B Virus does not infect ducks. In the grey heron it infects the liver and produces a viremia.
In one survey about 30% of herons in Germany were infected, but little is known of the worldwide incidence and distribution, but Heron Hepatitis B Virus was also identified in great blue herons (Ardea herodias) from Florida (USA).

Comparative analysis[3] of the captive German grey herons and the free-ranging American great blue herons implied a common ancestor. The data demonstrated that different subspecies of herons are infected by Heron Hepatitis B Virus.

This analysis and the fact that the different heron species are geographically isolated populations suggest that lateral transmission, virus adaptation and environmental factors all play a role in the spread and evolution of Heron Hepatitis B Virus.

[1] Sprengel et al: Isolation and characterization of a hepatitis B virus endemic in herons in Journal of Virology - 1988
[2] Netter et al: Sequence heterogeneity of heron hepatitis B virus genomes determined by full-length DNA amplification and direct sequencing reveals novel and unique features in Journal of General Virology - 1997
[3] Lin et al: Evidence from nature: interspecies spread of heron hepatitis B viruses in Journal of General Virology - 2005

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