Turtle dove © Malcolm Schuyl/FLPA© Malcolm Schuyl/FLPA

Wild birds are carrying vaccine-derived Newcastle disease viruses across the globe, according to a study.

The research found repeated isolation of vaccine-derived Newcastle disease viruses from different species of wild birds across four continents from 1997 to 2014.

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The data shows at least 17 species from 10 avian orders occupying different habitats excrete vaccine-derived Newcastle disease viruses.

The most commonly reported isolates were found in rock/turtle doves (Columbiformes) followed by types of waterfowl (Anseriformes).

Samples were isolated from both birds in the wild and those kept in captivity, according to the pan-global research, part-funded by the US Department of Agriculture and published this week in the Public Library of Science (Plos One).

The number of recovered vaccine-derived viruses corresponded with the most widely used vaccines – LaSota and Hitchner B1.

Indicator species

The researchers say the results and the ubiquitous nature of wild pigeons highlight their potential role as an indicator species for the presence of Newcastle disease of low virulence in the environment.

“The reverse spillover of live agents from domestic animals to wildlife as a result of the expansion of livestock industries employing massive amounts of live virus vaccines represent an underappreciated and poorly studies effect of human activity on wildlife,” the report’s abstract concluded.

The most recent case of Newcastle disease in Britain was during October-November 2006 in East Lothian, Scotland.