In order to evaluate geographical differences in the liver pathology of ducks infected with duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV), ducks in Chiba and Shimane, Japan, and Shanghai, China, were investigated. The numbers (DHBV positive/negative) and the maximum age of the ducks examined were 18/10 at 19 mo, 15/1 at 3 yr 4 mo, and 72/27 at 18 mo, respectively. DHBV infection was induced experimentally in ducks from Chiba and Shimane but was present congenitally in those from Shanghai. Ducks were examined regarding liver function tests, conventional histology, immunohistology, electron microscopy, and molecular hybridization for DHBV DNA in the serum and liver.

There was no significant difference between DHBV-positive and -negative ducks in bilirubin and transaminase and alkaline phosphatase activities in the sera. Histologically, while the livers of ducks from Chiba and Shimane did not show necroinflammatory (hepatitis) activity, those from Shanghai frequently did (52.5%). Necroinflammatory activity of the Shanghai ducks was present almost equally in both DHBV-positive and -negative livers. The livers of Shanghai ducks but not the other two areas often (8.3%) had ground-glass inclusions which corresponded ultrastructurally to numerous virus particles in the dilated cisternae of the proliferated endoplasmic reticulum. No advanced liver disease, such as cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma, was observed. There was no significant difference in the amount of DHBV DNA in the sera or in its pattern in the liver tissue among ducks of the three areas. In addition, the livers of Chiba ducks frequently had amyloidosis, while those of Shanghai ducks were contaminated with parasites.

In conclusion, DHBV infection did not appear to provoke significant hepatitis activity or advanced liver disease in the examined ducks of all three areas, and the DHBV-positive livers from Shanghai ducks showed a different morphological appearance from those of the other two areas. This variation might reflect the difference in the strain of ducks, subtypes of DHBV, environmental factors, or a combination of these influences.

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This research was supported by Japanese Ministry of Education Grant (C) 59570160 and by the Foundation for the Promotion of Cancer Research, Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare.

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