The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of circoviruses in wild bird populations, in Poland. Circoviruses possess immuno-suppressive properties and might interfere with the health of wild birds.
83 birds, which belonged to 23 species, were tested with broad-range, nested PCR. The obtained PCR products were sequenced and new primers designed, to analyse the full-length, viral genome. A phylogenetic analysis was conducted, to find any relationship to known circoviruses.
The circovirus DNA sequence was found in 4 birds. All samples originated from the velvet scoter (Melanitta fusca) a marine duck from the Merginae sub-family. Birds which tested positive for the circovirus were found dead in fishing nets, off the Baltic coast. During post-mortem examination, carcasses of two of the scoters showed only light emaciation, while the two other birds appeared healthy. The obtained, full-length, circovirus sequence revealed 1,988 nucleotides and the presence of typical features (i.e. Cap, Rep and ORF3). Nucleotide similarity to other duck circoviruses was 84 to 86 %. Phylogenetic analysis of the complete genome and cap gene, indicated that the new circovirus is related to known duck circoviruses, especially to sub-types sometimes referred to as duck circovirus genotype 1, but not genotype 2.
In this study, we have reported a new duck circovirus sequence detected in the velvet scoter, a species of marine duck. Sequence comparison and phylogenetic analysis of the new virus sequence support previous reports that duck circovirus (DuCV) is a species with a high degree of diversity. The viral sequence obtained from the velvet scoter suggests that DuCV may infect birds from the Anatinae sub-family. More studies are needed to prove if the velvet scoter and other marine ducks act as a reservoir for DuCV.