Prevalence of beak and feather disease virus in wild Platycercus elegans: Comparison of three tissue types using a probe-based real-time qPCR test

Justin R. Eastwood, Mathew L. Berg, Briana Spolding, Katherine L Buchanan, Andrew T D Bennett, Ken Walder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The detection of avian viruses in wild populations has considerable conservation implications. For DNA-based studies, feathers may be a convenient sample type for virus screening and are, therefore, an increasingly common technique. This is despite recent concerns about DNA quality, ethics, and a paucity of data comparing the reliability and sensitivity of feather sampling to other common sample types such as blood. Alternatively, skeletal muscle tissue may offer a convenient sample to collect from dead birds, which may reveal viraemia. Here, we describe a probe-based quantitative real-time PCR for the relative quantification of beak and feather disease virus (BFDV), a pathogen of serious conservation concern for parrots globally. We used this method to test for BFDV in wild crimson rosellas (Platycercus elegans), and compared three different sample types. We detected BFDV in samples from 29 out of 84 individuals (34.5%). However, feather samples provided discordant results concerning virus presence when compared with muscle tissue and blood, and estimates of viral load varied somewhat between different sample types. This study provides evidence for widespread infection of BFDV in wild crimson rosellas, but highlights the importance of sample type when generating and interpreting qualitative and quantitative avian virus data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian birds
  • conservation
  • parrots
  • wildlife management

Cite this