Thanks to new technologies which enable rapid and unbiased screening for viral nucleic acids in clinical specimens, an impressive number of previously unknown viruses have recently been discovered. Two research groups independently identified a novel negative-strand RNA virus, now designated avian bornavirus (ABV), in parrots with proventricular dilatation disease (PDD), a severe lymphoplasmacytic ganglioneuritis of the gastrointestinal tract of psittacine birds that is frequently accompanied by encephalomyelitis. Since its discovery, ABV has been detected worldwide in many captive parrots and in one canary with PDD. ABV induced a PDD-like disease in experimentally infected cockatiels, strongly suggesting that ABV is highly pathogenic in psittacine birds. Until the discovery of ABV, the Bornaviridae family consisted of a single species, classical Borna disease virus (BDV), which is the causative agent of a progressive neurological disorder that affects primarily horses, sheep, and some other farm animals in central Europe. Although ABV and BDV share many biological features, there exist several interesting differences, which are discussed in this review.
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