Our prior work has shown that live poultry vaccines have been intermittently isolated from wild birds sampled during field surveillance studies for Newcastle disease virus (NDV). Thus, we experimentally investigated the susceptibility of four native agriculturally associated wild bird species to the NDV LaSota vaccine and evaluated the shedding dynamics, potential transmission from chickens, and humoral antibody responses. To test susceptibility, we inoculated wild-caught, immunologically NDV-naïve house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus; n = 16), brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater; n = 9), northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis; n = 6), and American goldfinches (Spinus tristis; n = 12) with 0.1 ml (106.7 mean embryo infectious doses [EID50/ml]) of NDV LaSota vaccine via the oculo-nasal route. To test transmission between chickens and wild birds, adult specific-pathogen-free white leghorn chickens were inoculated similarly and cohoused in separate isolators with two to five wild birds of the species listed above. This design resulted in three treatments: wild bird direct inoculation (five groups) and wild bird exposure to one (two groups) or two inoculated chickens (six groups), respectively. Blood and oropharyngeal and cloacal swabs were collected before and after infection with the live vaccine. All wild birds that were directly inoculated with the LaSota vaccine shed virus as demonstrated by virus isolation (VI). Cardinals were the most susceptible species based on shedding viruses from 1 to 11 days postinoculation (dpi) with titers up to 104.9 EID50/ml. Although LaSota viruses were shed by all inoculated chickens and were present in the drinking water, most noninoculated wild birds cohoused with these chickens remained uninfected for 14 days as evidenced by VI. However, one American goldfinch tested positive for vaccine transmission by VI at 7 dpi and one house finch tested positive for vaccine transmission by real-time reverse-transcription PCR at 13 dpi. Only one directly inoculated cowbird (out of three) and two cardinals (out of two) developed NDV-specific hemagglutination inhibition antibody titers of 16, 16, and 128, respectively. No clinical signs were detected in the chickens or the wild birds postinoculation.
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Vol. 63 • No. 3