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Avian Dis.: Lack of evidence that avian oncogenic viruses are infectious for humans: a review.

Chickens may be infected with 3 different oncogenic viruses: avian leukosis virus (ALY), reticuloendotheliosis virus (REV), and Marek's disease herpesvirus (MDV). Several epidemiological studies have suggested a link between these viruses and different types of cancer in people working in poultry processing plants and with multiple sclerosis. In this article, we analyze the epidemiological evidence that these viruses are causative agents for human cancer, followed by description of the relevant key characteristics of ALV, REV, and MDV. Finally, we discuss the biological evidence or lack thereof that avian tumor viruses are involved in the etiology of human cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS). The recent primary epidemiologic articles that we reviewed as examples were only hypothesis-generating studies examining massive numbers of risk factors for associations with various imprecise, non-viral-specific outcomes. The studies lacked precise evidence of exposure to the relevant viruses and the statistical methods failed to adjust for the large risks of false-positive claims. ALV subgroups A-D and J have been eradicated in the United States from the pure lines down to the parent stocks by the breeder companies, which have greatly reduced the incidence of infection in layer flocks and broilers. As a consequence, potential exposure of humans to these viruses has greatly diminished. Infection of humans working in processing plants with ALV-A and ALV-B is unlikely, because broilers are generally resistant to infection with these 2 subgroups. Moreover, these viruses enter cells by specific receptors present on chicken, but not on mammalian, cells. Infection of mammalian cell cultures or animals with ALV-A, ALV-B, and ALV-J has not been reported. Moreover, humans vaccinated with exogenous or endogenous ALV-contaminated vaccines against yellow fever, measles, and mumps did not become antibody- or virus-positive for ALV. The risks for human infection with REV are similarly limited. First of all, REV also has been eradicated from pure lines down to parent stock by breeder companies in the United States. Broilers can still become infected with REV through infection with fowl pox virus containing REV. However, there is no indication that REV can infect human cells. Low levels of antibodies to ALV and REV in human sera have been reported by a few groups. Absorption of sera with chicken antigens reduced the antibody titers, and there was no clear association with contacts with poultry. Possible cross-reactions with human endogenous or exogenous retroviruses were not considered in these publications. MDV is typically associated with infection of chickens, and almost all experimental data show that MDV cannot infect mammalian cells or animals, including nonhuman primates. One study reports the presence of MDV gD DNA in human sera, but this finding could not be confirmed by another group. A Medline search of the term "gene expression in human cancers" was negative for publications with avian retroviruses or MDV. In conclusion, there is no indication that avian oncogenic viruses are involved in human cancer or MS or even able to infect and replicate in humans.


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Author:Schat, K.A.; Erb, H.N.
Publication:Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery
Article Type:Reprint
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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