Infectious Bursal Disease

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Infectious Bursal Disease Virus (IBDV)
Order RNA Viruses
Family Birnaviridae
Genus Avibirnavirus

Also Known As: Gumboro DiseaseInfectious Avian NephrosisInfectious Bursitis

Caused By: Infectious Bursal Disease Virus — IBD — IBDV


Infectious bursal disease is a highly contagious viral disease of birds caused by an avibirnavirus.

The virus can survive in a wide range of environmental conditions, remains viable from pH 2-12 and is inactivated only in 70⁰C for 30 minutes. It is also resistant to some disinfectants.

IBDV can survive in poultry houses for 122 days after removal of infected birds and in contaminated water or feed for 52 days.

Of the two known serotypes of IBDV, only Serotype 1 is pathogenic, causing bursal disease in chicks by selectively infecting the cells of the Bursa of Fabricius.


IBDV can infect chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and guineafowl but only chickens show clinical signs of disease.

Lethal infection is usually seen in chicks 3-6 weeks old due to IBDV being restricted to cells at a certain stage of development.


The virus is present worldwide.

The main route of transmission is faecal-oral and the virus is shed for up to 2 weeks post-infection in large amounts.

The role of wild birds as a mechanical vector is poorly understood. IBDV can also be spread by the nematode parasite, Alphitobius diaperinus.

IBD is not thought to be zoonotic.

Clinical Signs

One of the main effects of IBDV infection is mortality. This can be in chicks at 3-6 weeks old or later on as a result of severe immunosuppression allowing other disease to proliferate, in particular, E. coli and gangrenous dermatitis.

The virulence varies massively and so can disease severity. Initial outbreaks are usually the most severe and recurrent disease is milder with lower mortality.

Diarrhoea, recumbency, dehydration, neurological signs and ruffling of the feathers form a typical presentation of IBDV.


Acute disease is usually recognised in a flock by rapid onset, high morbidity (diarrhoea) with a spike in mortality and rapid recovery. Diagnosis is confirmed by post-mortem or laboratory testing.


On post-mortem examination, carcasses are dehydrated, often with darkened pectoral muscles. Many petechiae may be present in the thigh and pectoral muscle masses. Mucus may also be present within the intestines. In advanced disease, renal changes may be evident due to prolonged dehydration. Grey foci may also be present on an enlarged spleen.

The bursa of fabricius will usually initially be enlarged, oedematous and haemorrhagic. Its colour turns from white to cream and a yellow transudate covers its serosa early in infection.

From 7-8 days following infection, the bursa atrophies and becomes approximately 1/3 of its original weight.

Laboratory Tests

IBDV antigen can be detected in cloacal bursa or splenic samples by Agar Gel Precipitation or Immunofluorescence. RT-PCR is commonly used to detect IBDV.

Antibody ELISA can be used for serological diagnosis within a flock. A mimimum of 30 samples is required.


No treatment is available and recovery is usually rapid in an infected flock.


Hygienic measures with appropriate disinfectants are imperative.

Vaccination is also usually required. Both live and inactivated forms are available. Timing is difficult due to interference of maternally-derived antibody, but oil adjuvanted vaccines can extend maternal immunity to 5 weeks. Vaccination can cause immunosuppression and a degree of bursal damage.

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Eterradossi, N. and Saif, Y.M. (2008) Infectious Bursal Disease. In: Diseases of Poultry, 12th Edition (eds. Saif, Y.M., Fadly A.M., Glissen J.R., McDougald L.R., Nolan L.K., Swayne D.E.) Wiley-Blackwell, pp 185-208

van den Berg, T. (2007) Birnaviridae. In: Poultry Diseases, 6th Edition (eds. Pattison, M., McMullin, P., Bradbury, J., Alexander, D.) Saunders, Elsevier, pp 359-366


This article was originally sourced from The Animal Health & Production Compendium (AHPC) published online by CABI during the OVAL Project.

The datasheet was accessed on 5 June 2011.

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