What is the pacheco disease ?
The pacheco’s disease has been described around the world. It affects birds of all ages, and is often fatal. It is caused by a herpes virus (PsHv). The pacheco’s disease can affect all species of parrots, especially African Grey Parrot, Amazons, Quakers.
Some birds may die suddenly, with no specific or observable symptoms. The symptoms are otherwise rather vague : breathing difficulties, abundant secretion of urine. The bird can be lethargic, anorexic. The bird can have diarrhea. Greenish urine indicates liver damage because the virus affects the liver, the kidneys, the spleen.
Given the weakness and inaccuracy of symptoms, the diagnosis of the disease is therefore particularly difficult and screening by DNA testing remains the only effective method.
An embryo infected with an herpes virus, the cause of Pacheco’s disease
Herpes virus causing Pacheco’s disease in liver tissues
Considered highly contagious, the disease spreads very quickly within a breeding. The virus is usually spread by nasal secretions and feces. The virus can survive for a long time, outside its host, in the form of dust in its environment. This dust can be inhaled by another bird, which becomes infected. The virus is resistant to many disinfectants. Alcohol is, for example, inefficient. Oxidizing disinfectants, such as bleach, should be used. It is important to disinfect and replace all the aeration and air filtration systems.
The herpes virus remains latent in the body and will trigger the disease in case of stress. Stresses that can reactivate the virus are for example a change of environment or the loss of a partner. Once reactivated, the virus is excreted in large quantities in the feces. The virus remains present in birds that have survived the disease; they can still transmit it. Any bird that cures a Herpes virus infection should therefore be considered a carrier. The most common reservoirs of the virus are amazons, macaws, or conures.
It is therefore essential to detect this deadly disease on any new bird arriving in the breeding.
The treatment consists of administering acyclovir by force-feeding or mixing with food. The intramuscular administration of acyclovir is strongly discouraged because it can lead to muscle necrosis.
Screening and interpretation of results
The virus consists of a double strand of DNA, 120 to 220 nm in diameter. It replicates in the nucleus of its host cells and infects lymphocytes, epithelial cells and nerve cells.
The laboratory Genimal Biotechnologies carries out an optimized protocol for the detection of Pacheco’s disease based on an innovative nested touchdown PCR technology. This method allows for even more reliable results.
Screening Herpes virus is possible from blood.
Thanks to the innovative technique of nested touchdown PCR used by Genimal Biotechnologies, the result of the Pacheco’s disease screening test can be negative or positive. A negative result only means that the sample analyzed does not contain any virus. A positive result means that the bird is infected with Pacheco’s disease.
If the result is positive, the infected bird should be isolated from other birds on the farm, knowing that any bird infected with the Herpes virus, even if it heals, will remain a carrier of the virus.
Type of sample
Certificate example for the test : Pacheco's disease
Click on the example certificate below to open it.
Simpson CF, Hanley JE. Pacheco’s parrot disease of psittacine birds. Avian Dis. 1977 Apr-Jun;21(2):209-19.
Tomaszewski E, Wilson VG, Wigle WL, Phalen DN. Detection and heterogeneity of herpesviruses causing Pacheco’s disease in parrots. J Clin Microbiol. 2001 Feb;39(2):533-8.