Virus a prime suspect in beak disorder spreading among birds

Scientists have uncovered a fascinating new clue in the global mystery surrounding wild birds with grossly deformed beaks. A team of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have identified a novel virus that has been linked to Avian Keratin Disorder (AKD), a disease responsible for debilitating beak overgrowth and whose cause has remained elusive despite more than a decade of research. This new virus—identified from Alaska and the Pacific Northwest—is being investigated as a potential cause of AKD and represents a critical step in understanding the emergence of this disease in wild bird populations around the world. The results are published today in the journal mBio.

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