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Molecular identification of papillomavirus in ducksWilliams, Richard; Tolf, Conny; Waldenström, Jonas; Linnaeus University (Nature Research, 2018-06-14)Papillomaviruses infect many vertebrates, including birds. Persistent infections by some strains can cause malignant proliferation of cells (i.e. cancer), though more typically infections cause benign tumours, or may be completely subclinical. Sometimes extensive, persistent tumours are recorded– notably in chaffinches and humans. In 2016, a novel papillomavirus genotype was characterized from a duck faecal microbiome, in Bhopal, India; the sixth papillomavirus genotype from birds. Prompted by this finding, we screened 160 cloacal swabs and 968 faecal samples collected from 299 ducks sampled at Ottenby Bird Observatory, Sweden in 2015, using a newly designed real-time PCR. Twenty one samples (1.9%) from six individuals (2%) were positive. Eighteen sequences were identical to the published genotype, duck papillomavirus 1. One additional novel genotype was recovered from three samples. Both genotypes were recovered from a wild strain domestic mallard that was infected for more than 60 days with each genotype. All positive individuals were adult (P = 0.004). Significantly more positive samples were detected from swabs than faecal samples (P < 0.0001). Sample type data suggests transmission may be via direct contact, and only infrequently, via the oral-faecal route. Infection in only adult birds supports the hypothesis that this virus is sexually transmitted, though more work is required to verify this.