Researchers Find Internal "Hiding Place" of New Turkey Ailment
ARS News Service
Agricultural Research Service, USDA
Jim De Quattro, (301) 504-1626, email@example.com
June 25, 1999
A new disease has been killing flocks of turkeys in the Southeast since
1995. Now, scientists with USDA's Agricultural Research Service and North
Carolina State University have identified one of its hiding places--and its
first internal target: the turkey's disease-fighting lymph tissue.
Poult Enteritis Mortality Syndrome, or PEMS, weakens the turkey's immune
system, leaving it highly vulnerable to bacterial and parasitic infections.
But the new discovery could lead to better understanding
and--eventually--treatment and prevention.
PEMS outbreaks in the Southeast have cost the turkey industry millions of
dollars in losses annually. Other outbreaks have been reported in Texas and
Virginia. PEMS-related mortality ranges between 25 to 96 percent in affected
flocks. Birds that recover reach only about 40 percent of typical market
The syndrome is apparently a deadly combination of viruses. Specific
causative agents have not yet been identified, according to microbiologist
Stacey L. Schultz-Cherry at the ARS Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in
Athens, Ga. But she and ARS colleagues, collaborating with NCSU veterinarian
John Barnes in Raleigh, N.C., found that PEMS strikes first in the thymus,
or lymphoid glands of turkeys. Very few viruses are known to grow in the
thymus. The ability of a virus to infect the thymus is a special concern
because it is a designated disease fighter.
The researchers recently isolated one virus from the thymus of a turkey sick
with PEMS. They are attempting to identify it and determine its role in
PEMS. The research will aid in developing diagnostic tools and treatments to
prevent future outbreaks.
Increased vigilance on turkey farms has decreased the incidence of PEMS, But
before scientists can develop effective treatments, they need to learn much
more about the causative agent or agents and their effects on the turkey's
Schultz-Cherry is scheduled to present detailed findings on July 13 at the
American Veterinary Association Meeting in New Orleans. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific wing.
Scientific contacts: Stacey Schultz-Cherry or David Swayne, ARS Southeast
Poultry Research Laboratory, Athens, Ga., phone (706) 546-3432, fax (706)
546-3161, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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